2018 Commencement Speech

Class of 2018

President McRobbie, Trustees, honored guests, family and friends, it is an honor and a privilege to introduce you to the 658 members of the Class of 2018.  The students represent 36 Indiana counties, 4 states, and 11 different countries. 

As you will hear today, our students have come from very different backgrounds with very different goals and very different stories. But, what I have noticed, is that each and every one of them brought to campus an adventurous, determined spirit.  They saw our campus as a place of tremendous opportunity and hope to pursue a better life. The faculty and staff, in turn, made a commitment to each student that they would support them in their journey no matter what path it would take.  At IU Kokomo we are grounded on the principle that every student matters here.

So every hour, every day, students from all walks of life engaged in the same critical work with faculty – learning and discovering, turning information into action and tangible change, so when they leave us today we know they are prepared to make a difference in this region.

Graduates, as I look at each and every one of you, I am inspired by your personal stories and your successful journeys.  I wish I had time today to share everyone’s story, but I know the few stories that I will share; will embody many of you.

Flor Valdes will you please stand.  As a 21st century scholar and the first in her family to attend college Flor will graduate with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Spanish.  During her time at IU Kokomo she embraced so many opportunities from undergraduate research to international travel.

Will all of our graduates who like Flor are the first in their families to graduate with a college degree… please stand.

Some students are faced with life obstacles while working toward their degree.

Emily Impson will you please stand.  As a future special education teacher Emily empathizes with the struggles her students face because she has experienced similar difficulties herself.  During her junior year Emily learned she had a brain tumor behind her ear.  While the tumor was thankfully benign it resulted in complete loss of hearing in her left ear.  Her health scare makes her more determined than ever to make a difference for children with special needs.

Michael Plummer will you please stand.  Michael is graduating with a degree in Business.  A talented football player in high school Michael aspired to play college football but a serious injury on the field his senior year changed all of that.  A brain bleed led to seizures and a stroke.  After months of rehabilitation he started at Ivy Tech Community college and then transferred to IU Kokomo –  he became a member of the honors program, traveled to Poland with his business class and has secured a full time job in the sports field.

Many of you have juggled other life commitments while earning your degree. Artemio Cardenas is no different. Artemio, will you please stand?

Instead of preparing for post-graduation festivities this past weekend, Artemio was at Camp Atterbury. A reservist in the United States Marine Corps, he has spent several days a month serving his country since 2015.

Today, he earns a degree in criminal justice and has aspirations to become a police officer and work his way to being a detective.

Patrick Lennon will you please stand.  Patrick began his academic career at IU Bloomington, majoring in Japanese.  He left campus before completing his degree and entered the armed forces and became an expert in Arabic.  Retiring from the military after 6 years of service he returned to IU Kokomo to complete his degree.  He will begin his new career as a multi-discipline language analyst specializing in Arabic for the National security agency

I would like to recognize all of our graduates who have served in the armed forces. Will you please stand and join Artemio and Patrick for our recognition?

         Most college students aspire to complete their degree in four years.  However, we always see a few overachievers… like April Wheeldon – will you please stand.  April completed her accounting degree in three years and has a job with a local accounting firm.

         We are also proud of our athletes who complete their degrees on time.  Four years ago we began our women’s basketball program.  Today, we graduate the following players who started our program– will you please stand.  Dejianna Butler, Tabby DeWitt, Deja Felder and Whitney Williamson.

         We also have more students this year that pushed hard to complete their degrees in 4 years or less.  If you finished your degree in 4 years or less would you please stand.

Other students have used this opportunity to see the world, like Madi Roswog. Madi will you please stand?

When Madi enrolled at IU Kokomo, she didn’t have a passport. Now graduating with a degree in communication arts, she’s put stamps in her passport from seven countries, most recently Italy.

She made overseas travel a priority, setting aside a percentage of every pay check from her restaurant job in an account to fund her trips. She’s walked the beaches of Normandy, climbed the Great Wall of China, cared for malnourished children in Guatemala, stood in Anne Frank’s Secret Annex in The Netherlands, and viewed priceless works of art in Italy.

All students who traveled internationally while a student here… will you please stand?

Some students come to us from other countries to achieve

their college dreams, like Mike Francois. Mike will you please


As a teenager living in Haiti, the idea of an American

college education seemed like an impossible goal. But if you tell

him something is unattainable, it makes him want it more

— and work to make it happen.

Today, Mike has achieved ‘his’ impossible, graduating

with a degree in finance. He’s already set his next goal and

plans to earn a Master of Science in Accounting.

He hopes to serve as an example to young people in his country, of what is possible with hard work and a dream.

Will all of our international students who are graduating today, please stand for our recognition.

Our students never cease to amaze me with their desire to learn more and take the next step to graduate and professional schools.  Several students have been accepted in to graduate or professional schools this fall. 

Mary Elmasry is one of those students. Mary will you please stand?

Mary’s hard work has paid off as she has been accepted into the IU School of Dentistry.  Her experience studying photoelectric chemistry with Professor Kasem Kasem prepared her to stand out among the applicants.  Together they conducted research, presented at a conference and published their paper in a professional journal.  

Hannah Randall, will you please stand?  Hannah is headed to medical school.  Dillan Schroeter and Carlos Coverdale will you both stand, they are headed to physical therapy school. 

I know there are many more students headed to graduate or professional schools, will you please stand, too?

Internships are a valuable piece of a student’s educational journey.  Caitlyn Perkins is one of many who has practiced her future profession with hands-on experience. Caitlyn, will you please stand?

Caitlyn spent last summer helping nurses care for patients on the heart and lung transplant unit at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She was one of 53 nursing students chosen from 1,000 applicants to spend the summer working at the Mayo Clinic.  

Since returning from Minnesota, she’s accepted a job at IU Health Methodist Hospital in the cardiovascular critical care unit.  Trent Elliot, will you please stand? Trent did an internship with FCA Chrysler corporation and he has accepted a position with them in management

Will all students who have participated in an internship or externship please stand?

Carley Cottrell is another graduate here today who has #landedajob.  Carley will you please stand?

 She graduates today with her MBA.

Carley’s talent hasn’t gone unnoticed after her internship she has been hired by Allegiant International Consulting and begins her job this week as a business analyst.

Will all the students who have a job ready upon graduation please stand with her?

As I stated earlier, I wish I could share more stories with all of you because you would continue to be impressed.  Today, our graduates will receive an Indiana University diploma.  As you can see, all of our students have worked hard to earn this prestigious degree that commands respect and instills pride.

Graduates, on behalf of all of us, we couldn’t be more proud.  Best wishes to you, Class of 2018.