Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. — The threat of rain may have moved Indiana University Kokomo's Commencement inside Tuesday (May 13), but it did not dampen the celebratory atmosphere, as 599 students received their degrees.

Commencement 2014Graduates are recognized during Commencement. See more pictures on Flickr.

The two ceremonies included the first graduates from the Master of Science in Nursing program, and the awarding of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Sergio Marchionne, Chairman and CEO of Chrysler Group LLC.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie presided over the morning ceremony, which included graduates from the School of Nursing, Division of Allied Health Sciences, and the School of Education. John Applegate, executive vice president for university academic affairs, presided over the afternoon ceremony, which included graduates from the School of Sciences, School of Business, and School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

McRobbie congratulated the Class of 2014, and reminded them of their responsibilities as graduates.

He shared the words of Robert F. Kennedy, who told students in 1966 they were among the most privileged citizens of the world, because of their opportunity to study and learn, and that history would judge them based on how they used their gifts to enlighten and enrich the lives of their fellow man.

"Those choices, and that future, are now in your hands," McRobbie said. "In the face of vast and sobering challenges, you have the power to shape your world, and to fulfill the best qualities of your own spirits.

"As you take your place among the next generation of business leaders, journalists, judges, artists, scientists, public health professionals, teachers, social workers, and government leaders, may you remember that learning is a process rather than a product, and may you be audacious enough to imagine the possibilities of your own present and future."

Marchionne thanked McRobbie and Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke for the honorary degree, saying he accepted it not on his own behalf, but in recognition of the 300,000 colleagues and collaborators in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles world, who work together to generate growth and value not only for the company, but also for the communities where the company operates.

He congratulated the graduates, and urged them to think about what each of them wants to be remembered for after they are gone.

"Making a difference is the best answer I have ever heard," he said. "Your outlook on life changes completely if you point your efforts to this very simple objective. Making a difference to the organization you work for, to the community that you live in, to the families that sustain you, and the ones you will support as you go through life. Doing things for no purpose is a denial of our humanity.

"This is a crucial moment in history, and the world needs your talent, and it needs your energies, your passion, and your commitment," Marchionne said. "My wish for you is that you find your passion, that you pursue your dream, and that you make that difference."

Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke commended Marchionne for his revitalization of Chrysler, which has had a profound impact on Kokomo. Since 2009, he has invested more than $1.5 billion in the region, and opened the new Tipton Transmission Plant Tuesday.

She is especially thankful for an active partnership between Chrysler and IU Kokomo, which has led to internship opportunities for students.

Shaina Shirar, vice president of Student Union Board, represented the Class of 2014 as student speaker. The Frankfort resident said she learned many important life lessons, from college, including that when things don't go your way, don't dwell on it, but find the good and move on to the next thing.

"Don't dwell on the bad moments, but cherish the good," she said. "We have to remember not to sweat the small stuff in life. We've accomplished our biggest milestone yet today."

Each student had his or her moment to shine, crossing the Havens Auditorium stage to shake hands with Sciame-Giesecke and accept his or her degree, as Todd Gambill, vice chancellor for student services and enrollment management, read names.

Proud family members burst into applause when they heard their graduate's name, and held up smart phones to take pictures. One also received a "Way to go, Mom!" as she walked onto the stage.

Sciame-Giesecke recognized achievements of several graduates, including Maria Pineda, the daughter of immigrants, who is the first in her family to graduate from college. She honored Lashanda Thomas, a mother of eight who completed her degree in general studies, despite losing her family's home in a flood; Aaron Bird, who served in the Army National Guard and the Reserve Officers' Training Corps while earning his degree; David Lapan, a veteran who graduated with a degree in English; and Pam Plain, who earned honors as the 2012 Indiana Intern of the Year. She also recognized Arwa Albawardi and Talal Al Hammad, the campus' first Saudi graduates.

"IU Kokomo is a stepping-stone to many more hopes and dreams for these graduates," she said. "We could not be more proud of them."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.