Ivy Tech Commencement: Graduates told to share their stories of hope and inspiration

By Rod Spaw 331-4338 | rspaw@heraldt.com
May 12, 2012

PHOTO GALLERY: Ivy Tech Commencement

Every Ivy Tech graduation is a celebration of more than just the conferring of degrees. For many of the more than 670 Ivy Tech-Bloomington students Friday at the Indiana University Auditorium, the degrees or certificates they received represented a second chance, a better life for their families or the culmination of a dream achieved through hard work and determination.

There were people like Stephanie Deckard, who started her college career three years ago just before her 40th birthday, a first-generation college student who enrolled to set a positive example for her children. She graduated Friday with an associate of applied science degree in hospitality administration.

There were people like Rachael Rosso, who completed two degrees in less than three years and would not be thrown off track even after sustaining severe injuries in a motor vehicle accident last January. With the support of her family and friends, as well as the staff and faculty at Ivy Tech, she completed her studies in time to graduate Friday with an associate of arts degree in general studies and an associate of science degree, liberal arts, with a chemistry concentration.

There were people like Jeffrey Fields, who lost a job that paid well when Visteon closed its doors in Bedford in 2008. Out of work for the first time in 22 years, Fields decided his best option was to pursue his interest in computers at Ivy Tech. He was named Information Technology’s outstanding student and graduated Friday with an associate of applied science degree in computer information technology.

Graduation speaker Gerardo M. Gonzalez, dean of the IU School of Education, could relate to all their stories. Gonzalez came to Florida with his parents from Cuba in the early 1960s. He found himself immersed in an educational system that didn’t understand children from other cultures and wasn’t prepared to educate students who couldn’t even speak English when they arrived at school.

Like other students who were different, he said in his commencement address, he eventually became “invisible” to the system and left high school with no skills by which to obtain meaningful employment. He said it was only after enrolling at Miami-Dade Community College that he found the path that brought him to leadership of one of the premier schools of education in the country.

“I don’t say this to brag about my accomplishments; rather, I want you to understand that the fact I had been tracked into vocational education in high school had nothing to do with my actual academic ability,” he told the Ivy Tech graduates and guests. “Once offered a chance at education with dignity and respect, I excelled.”

Friday was the second time Gonzalez had addressed a graduating class of the local Ivy Tech campus. The first time was 2007, and Gonzalez noted that while much has changed in the world — economic recession and the death of Osama bin Laden — education still is the great equalizer, the cure for the hopelessness that drives the forces of terrorism around the world.

For that reason, Gonzalez said, he supports a federal DREAM Act to give undocumented immigrant children a path to citizenship by attending college or joining the military.

“For every child like me, and like many of you here tonight, who gets a second chance to succeed, there are literally millions who don’t get that second chance,” he said. “Freedom depends on having a fair and just society where everyone is afforded a meaningful opportunity to pursue his or her dreams.”

Gonzalez told the graduates to remember their roots as their lives go forward and to “inspire and help others reach their full potential.”

Thomas Snyder, president of Ivy Tech Community College, also reminded the 2012 graduates about their responsibilities.

“The most important thing we do is send you out with your stories and your skills,” Snyder said. “You’re not only changing your life. You’re changing Indiana, and you’re changing the lives of people around you.”

Nursing school graduate Alissa Shiffrin, center, waits in line with her fellow graduates outside the IU Auditorium. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times
The Indiana University Auditorium is filled Friday evening with friends and family of Ivy Tech graduates. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times
Heidi Wampler, Ivy Tech assistant director of academic affairs, right, looks at graduate Rachael Rosso’s cap, which was decorated. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the Indiana University School of Education, delivers the commencement address to Ivy Tech graduates. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

Ivy Tech awards

Each commencement ceremony, Ivy Tech-Bloomington recognizes students for outstanding academic achievements. Academic program chairs in 25 programs of study choose students to receive the award.

This year’s recipients are Tom Powell, accounting; Erin Couch, biotechnology; Andriya Nichole Hardy, business administration; Re’Nardo Ellay Williams, computer information systems; Jeffrey Fields, computer information technology; Joni M. Bennett, office administration; Mary Margaret Houston Demes, early childhood education; Carrie Robbins, education; and Brandon Paul McGuire, general studies; Jessica Lynn Kirkman, Liberal Arts; Mary Katherine Miller, health care support; Clara Kallner, health information technology; Diana Soots, paramedic science; Jocelyn Bower, radiation therapy; J. Michael Wathen, respiratory care; Tony Mosora, practical nursing; Melissa Messmer and Sarah Stewart, nursing; Andrew Michael Bradley Dwyer, criminal justice; Emily Melton, hospitality administration; James Alexander Maniakas, paralegal studies; Kenneth Hinkle, public safety; Edwin John Lewis, design technology; Vincent Edwards Summer, electronics and computer technology; Paul Hudson, heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and Justin C. Luthe, industrial technology.

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.