KOKOMO, Ind. – With great fanfare and applause, Indiana University Kokomo celebrated the achievements of the Class of 2019, at its 50th Commencement.
As the graduates entered the Kokomo Event and Conference Center, the sounds of faculty cheering and clapping could be heard over the IU Brass Quintet’s rendition of Pomp and Circumstance, as they lined the entry hallway in one final farewell to their students.
President Michael A. McRobbie welcomed the graduates, their families, and friends, noting that the graduates earned a record-breaking 686 degrees — contributing to a university record 21,500 degrees statewide.
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke congratulated the campus’s 50th graduating class, noting that IU Kokomo has been the main source for higher education in north central Indiana for nearly 75 years.
“In that time, we have conferred the degrees of 14,000 graduates who have gone out into our region, state, and world, to make a difference,” she said.
She continued her tradition of sharing success stories of individual graduates, as representatives of their class, and inviting students to stand for recognition.
“Graduates, as I look at each and every one of you, I am inspired by your personal stories and your successful journeys,” she said. “ I wish I had time today to share everybody’s stories, but I know the few that I will share will embody many of you.”
She shared stories of graduates who are the first in their family to graduate from college, like Jocelyn Castro Aguilar, who is now a teacher because of the sacrifice her parents made to immigrate from Mexico. While Aguilar was honored, her parents stood nearby in the audience, beaming with pride, as their daughter touched her fingers to her lips in tribute.
Also, Cameren Hinton has served nearly 10 years in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. A father of four daughters, he worked full time as an aircraft technician at Grissom Air Reserves base while earning his degree in informatics.
The Chancellor applauded Chelsea Fields, who suffered a devastating brain injury in a car accident as a freshman, but persisted to complete her degree in medical imaging technology, and highlighted Jeffrey Grismore, who served four years in the Marine Corps, interned at Fiat Chrysler Automotive, and begins a full-time job there next week.
She also celebrated students like Danté Butler, who restarted the Black Student Union and played on the men’s basketball team, international students like Olena Shumeiko who came from Ukraine to earn a Master of Business Administration, and Shelby Beltz, who earned her degree in fewer than four years.
“As you can see, all of our students have worked hard to earn this prestigious degree that commands respect and instills pride,” she said. “Graduates, on behalf of all of us, we couldn’t be prouder.”
The highlight of the ceremony was conferral of degrees, with the class moving their tassels from right to left, to show they have graduated. Each one had his or her moment to shine, crossing the stage to receive a diploma and a handshake or hug from the chancellor.
Business graduate Allison Elizabeth Ann Hopkins, Tipton, represented the class as its speaker. She spoke about the community she found as a student, saying the relationships and kindness shown to one another are what she’s enjoyed most about the campus.
“As we go off and start our own careers, it is important to remember all of this help we have received to get here,” she said. “As alumni, it is now our turn to give back and help the upcoming students. I challenge you to repay the favor because we have all been so blessed with help to get to this moment.”
Kaytlynn Lawson, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate from Kokomo, led the singing of the National Anthem and the Alma Mater.
In his charge to the class, McRobbie reflected on achievements of IU alumni George Taliaferro, David Hamburg, Senator Birch Bayh, and Senator Richard Lugar, as well as the 10th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Economics to the late Elinor Ostrom, a longtime faculty member.
“As graduates of Indiana University, you have been preparing for years to become the next generation to discover, to understand, and to apply all that you have learned,” he said. “May you be inspired by the lives and careers of those we have honored today, and by the faculty with whom you have worked at IU, to devote yourself to public service and advancing the common good. May you carry on the traditions of excellence that have brought you to this moment.
“And may it be said in years to come that it was graduates like you, here and around the world, who confronted and conquered the most difficult challenges of today, and gained the respect and gratitude of all.”
Chancellor Emerita Emita B. Hill, IU Kokomo’s first woman chancellor, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the ceremony. The honorary degree recognized her leadership on campus during a period of significant growth, and her accomplishments supporting higher education and supporting women in leadership positions.
McRobbie said he was personally delighted to present the honorary degree to his former colleague.
“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.