Class of 2011 urged to keep learning, help others

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
May 7, 2011

A veteran broadcast journalist and a newly minted public relations professional helped send Indiana State University graduates off Saturday.

More than 1,500 students completed requirements for graduation during the spring semester or will complete their degrees this summer.

Saturday marked the university's 140th spring commencement ceremony. Alumni speaker Gerry Dick told students they should never graduate.

"Never stop learning," said Dick, president and managing editor of Grow Indiana Media Ventures.

"Education, training and retraining need to be part of your vocabulary for the rest of your life."

Student speaker Annie Smith described how she found purpose in life as an Indiana State student and told her fellow graduates they can help others as well as themselves.

"Each day, our lives connect with other lives, and our choices determine the success of those interactions," she said.

Despite an economy that remains tough, Dick, a 1990 radio/TV/film graduate told graduates their "opportunity to be special and to be successful is as great as any class that has graduated from Indiana State University."

The host of the statewide business television show "Inside Indiana Business" said his optimism is based on what he sees around Indiana - high school buddies from Zionsville developing one of the top search engine optimization firm in the country and other Hoosiers launching a social media company that has attracted national advertisers and providing Indiana-made products for Super Bowl events.

"I encourage you to embrace change. I promise you your first job will not be your last," Dick said. "There's a good bet that your ticket to success may be in an area far different than what you focused on in college."

As they embrace lifelong learning - and change - it will also be important for graduates to accept failure, he said.

"The best entrepreneurs, some of the most successful people in this country, have failed...multiple times," Dick said. "You will learn far more from your failures in your lifetime than your successes. So embrace failure and learn from it to create a success in the future."

Smith, whose high school aspirations revolved mainly around athletics and who came to Indiana State as a student-athlete in soccer, said she realized by the end of her freshman year something was missing.

Following a heart-to-heart chat with her dad in which he spoke of "the incredible opportunity to impact other people's lives," Smith quit the soccer team and discovered a new passion for helping others.

After helping with a letter-writing campaign seeking donations for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital during which she also penned personal notes to cancer survivors, Smith said another student told her how her actions probably helped pay for a child's radiation treatment.

"'I wish someone would have done that for me,'" she recalled the student saying. "This student, I learned, was a cancer survivor. That small conversation that may have been insignificant to him helped me discover a new passion. It helped me find my purpose and filled the space that was missing in my life."

Smith, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in public relations, told students that while her ISU experience has changed her life, lessons learned in kindergarten remain valuable.

"Don't forget your please-and-thank you's. Be respectful. Listen. Share with others. Treat others the way you would like to be treated," she said.

While soccer is what brought Smith to Indiana State, it was her classmates, friends, professors and mentors who kept here there, she said.

"I have seen students make extraordinary accomplishments that have undoubtedly impacted so many other lives," she added. "Before leaving ISU as a student, take one last look at the faces that surround you. Remember this moment. Know that what you do today and every day matters."

University President Dan Bradley congratulated the graduates, saying he continues to be impressed by the accomplishments of ISU students.

"I look forward to seeing you enthusiastically apply the skills and knowledge you have garnered while at ISU to advance your careers, serve your communities, and literally help change the world," Bradley said.

In conjunction with the university's commitment to environmental diversity, this year's graduates wore commencement gowns made of fiber derived from recycled plastic bottles.

It was the final commencement for Michele Boyer as grand marshal, a role in which she served for 13 years. Boyer, professor and chair of the department of communication disorder and counseling, school, and educational psychology, is retiring after 25 years at Indiana State.

Media contact and writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu