News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

December 14, 2013

SMWC speaker urges graduates to ‘change the world’

ST. MARY-OF-THE-WOODS — A snow-covered campus provided a scenic backdrop for “Woodsies” who accepted their degrees Saturday afternoon at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Eighty students were eligible for December graduation, and dozens took part in the ceremony in the Cecilian Auditorium in the college’s Conservatory of Music. It was SMWC’s 174th commencement ceremony but only the second December commencement, said Dottie King, college president.

Among the graduates anxiously awaiting the start of the ceremony was Alexis Short of Hillsdale. A human resources management major, Short said she would like to return to The Woods for a business-related master’s degree after receiving some work experience.

Graduating is really “starting a new chapter in my life,” Short said, smiling and standing in a narrow hallway with dozens of other waiting graduates. “I’m getting married in six months,” she noted. “It’s good to feel like a grown up.”

Short is the first in her family to graduate from college, adding to the pride she and her watching parents were about to feel as she received her degree, she said. She also praised the SMWC community for giving her a supportive environment in which to attend college.

“It’s a tight-knit community,” she said. “Everyone is very nice and friendly.”

Commencement speaker Tracy Richardson, a professor of music therapy at The Woods and accomplished musician, urged her fellow “Woodsies” to face future challenges with confidence based on their hard work, perseverance and success at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

“You must do the things you think you cannot do,” she said. She also urged them to think critically and embrace their ability to improve the world even if just one person at a time.

“Your words and actions can literally change the world,” she said. “By changing lives, we do, ultimately, change the world.”

There were 80 students eligible to graduate Saturday from The Woods. Approximately 50 or 60 braved snowy roads to attend the ceremony.

The ceremony included graduates from the college’s three degree programs, the on-campus, all female program and the co-educational distance and master’s programs.

The undergraduate Alumnae Medal for Leadership and Service Award was given to Amber Louise Slaughterbeck. The graduate recipient of the Medal was Susan Lynn Snider Turner.

Dipa Sarkar, MD, received the President’s Aspire Higher Award. Sarkar has been active in many community organizations and also worked alongside Mother Teresa at two different times in her career, King said. After receiving her honor, Sarkar displayed a rosary she said was given to her by Mother Teresa.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or

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