Faculty, dressed in bright-colored regalia, lined the hallways of the Kokomo Event and Conference Center, applauding and cheering the Class of 2017, and offering high fives and fist bumps to graduates as they processed into the ceremony, accompanied by a brass quintet.
Inside the hall, families and friends of the graduates anxiously awaited their arrival, cell phones ready to record pictures and audio of the momentous occasion. Occasional bursts of clapping and cheers came from sections of the audience, as they spotted their graduate.
IU President Michael A. McRobbie welcomed the class, as well as their families, to the event, which he called “a celebration of accomplishment.”
He noted that the IU Kokomo Class of 2017 is part of a record number of more than 21,000 IU graduates statewide, and, with 643 members, is the single largest graduating class in campus history.
He spoke about the value of truth in what has been called a “post-truth era,” a time in which there is a “disturbingly widespread casual attitude toward the truth.” IU stands for truth, “plain, simple, and unadorned. For truth and veracity are the very foundations of our society.”
He urged graduates to remember the work at IU’s heart — the search for truth and the dissemination of knowledge to generations of students like themselves, whose characters are molded by its values.
“Our society has a vital need for those with such an education, for those trained in truth and those who have a reverence for truth,” McRobbie said, noting that solving society’s grand challenges depends on use of logic and reason, using extensive bodies of factual information.
“Our society needs policy-makers, scientists, public servants, business executives — the kinds of leaders you will become — who have an understanding of the truth. You, the members of the IU Kokomo Class of 2017, are superbly prepared to confront these challenges and to continue this tradition of the dedicated and unremitting search for truth.”
McRobbie presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Kokomo native Beth Brooke-Marciniak, global vice-chair of public policy at EY, formerly known as Ernst & Young. She leads EY’s global diversity and inclusiveness efforts, and works with civic and business organizations that promote women in the workplace.
She was in the first class of female basketball players to receive athletic scholarships at Purdue University. She founded the Women Athletes Business Network, which supports female athletes by preparing them for careers after retiring from their sports.
“Your distinguished record of achievement and your generosity of spirit have set an inspiring example for all to follow,” McRobbie said.
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke congratulated the graduates — in particular, the first graduating class in the hospitality and tourism program.
She said that IU Kokomo is grounded on the principle that “every student matters here,” and shared just a few of their success stories.
She told of Keeana Walton, who joined IU Kokomo’s volleyball team as an underdog, and became its leader. She and about 40 percent of the class are the first in their family to graduate from college.
Sciame-Giesecke spoke of students who overcame obstacles to get to graduation, like Jessica Gordon, whose long-term boyfriend died, and then she lost her apartment, her car, and most of her belongings to the August tornado, which struck on the day of the funeral. These tragedies made her more determined than every to graduate on time.
She saluted those in the class who have served in the military, including Julia Person, who earned her degree in history and political science while serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. She also noted Hannah High and Frederick Matthes, who earned their degrees in less than four years, Tyler Lucas, who served as chair of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics student advocacy board, international student Flavio Zampilli, Harlee Phillips, who spend a year studying in China, and several students going to graduate or professional schools next year.
“As you can see, all of our students have worked hard to earn this prestigious degree that commands respect and instills pride,” Sciame-Giesecke said. “Graduates, on behalf of all of us, we couldn’t be more proud.”
The central moment of the ceremony was conferral of degrees, and turning of the tassels to designate the class as graduates. Each one crossed the stage to accept a diploma and handshake or hug from the chancellor, and a handshake from McRobbie.
Graduate Nathan Emery, Logansport, led singing of the national anthem and the alma mater during the ceremony.
Amber Moore, Kokomo, represented the graduates as student speaker. She recalled her first time on campus, attending the annual Halloween open house as a three-year-old in a princess dress.
“At that time, I could not have imagined I’d be standing here today, wearing a cap and gown, preparing to step off the IU Kokomo campus as a graduate,” she said. “The prize I obtained as a three-year-old was a piece of candy. Standing before you today, as a member of the Class of 2017 as an honored member of the illustrious IU Alumni, the prize we obtain is an IU diploma. And once again, I am overjoyed.”
As the graduates progressed through their programs, she said, they’ve undergone personal transformation, and gained the prizes of friendship, failure, and facts, that have made them stronger and more prepared to go out into the world.
“As we leave today, we should remember what we’ve been taught, those who taught us, those who learned with us, and those who loved us as we do good work worth doing. That’s the prize.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana