KOKOMO, Ind. — With much pomp and pageantry, Indiana University Kokomo celebrated the achievements of its largest ever graduating class, at Commencement ceremonies Tuesday (May 8).
As the black-gowned graduates processed into the Kokomo Event Center, faculty members lined the hallway, applauding, cheering, and offering high fives, proud of their success. A standing room only crowd offered additional applause and cheers, as family members and friends anxiously watched for a glimpse of their graduate.
IU President Michael A. McRobbie welcomed the graduates, their families, and friends to the campus’ 49th annual Commencement, noting that the 658 graduates join a record-breaking IU Class of 2018 that numbers more than 21,000.
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke expressed her pride in the graduates, sharing stories of a few individuals.
She told of students who overcame obstacles to graduate, including Flor Valdes, who is the first in her immigrant family to earn a college degree; Emily Impson, who lost hearing in one ear after having a brain tumor removed her junior year; and Michael Plummer, who overcame a football injury followed by a stroke.
She commended all graduates who served in the military, including Artemio Cardenas, a reservist in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Patrick Lennon, who became a specialist in the Arabic language during his six years of service in the U.S. Army.
Sciame-Giesecke lauded April Wheeldon, who completed an accounting degree in three years, and graduates with a job, and also praised Dejianna Butler, Tabby DeWitt, Deja Felder, and Whitney Williamson, who were on the inaugural women’s basketball team, and graduated in four years.
“Graduates, as I look at each and every one of you, I am inspired by your personal stories, and your successful journeys,” she said. “On behalf of all of us, we couldn’t be prouder.”
The most important moment of the ceremony was conferral of degrees, and turning of the tassels to the left, to designate the students as college graduates. Then, each one had a moment in the spotlight, crossing the stage to receive a diploma and a handshake or hug from the chancellor.
Graduate Faith Renken led singing of the national anthem and alma mater during the ceremony.
Bailey Troutman, Lapel, represented the graduates as student speaker, sharing her insight on the personal and professional growth she experienced on campus. She talked about the August 24, 2016 tornadoes, which destroyed the apartment she shared with her sister, Brooke, and the overwhelming support she received from friends, faculty, and staff.
“I am thankful IU Kokomo fulfilled the promise of a wonderful education, while giving me the chance to be part of the Cougar family,” she said. “May each day of our lives be an opportunity to help or inspire someone else and may we all find happiness in the journey ahead. May we always be resilient, and may we cherish our Cougar spirit and our Hoosier pride as long as we live.”
President McRobbie’s charge to the class referenced a speech given by William Lowe Bryan, IU’s 10th president, who told graduates, “the University must never surrender its mission to know the whole truth about the universe of which we are a part.”
More than 100 years later, in a time dubbed the “post-truth” era, IU’s commitment to the search for truth remains steadfast, he said.
“Remember the work at the heart of your alma mater: the search for truth, and the dissemination of knowledge to generations of students, students like you, whose characters are molded by the very values of this great institution,” he said. “Venerate the truth. Search for it. Defend it when challenged. Value the experience and expertise of others. Remain humble in the face of complexity.
McRobbie presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Robert E. Knowling Jr., a Kokomo native who is chair of Eagles Landing Partners, a strategic management consulting firm.
Knowling graduated from Wabash College, where he earned a degree in theology and played football and basketball. He rose through the management ranks of several prominent telecommunication companies, including Ameritech, U.S. West, and Covad Communications. He took a two-year leave of absence from his career to serve as the first CEO of the New York City Leadership Academy, an organization to develop the next generation of principals in the New York City school system.
McRobbie saluted Knowling for his service and accomplishments.
“Your distinguished record of achievement and your generosity of spirit serve as a shining beacon for all to follow,” he said.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.