News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

May 31, 2014

6 former West Vigo Vikings graduate together from Rose-Hulman

TERRE HAUTE — Jacob Kelley, Jordan Thralls and Thomas White are breathing a sigh of relief today.

After four years of rigorous studies, the three classmates celebrated a huge milestone Saturday when they graduated from Rose Hulman Institute of Technology.

They joined 466 other students who graduated during the college’s 136th commencement at the Sports and Recreation Center on campus.

And better yet, all three have landed good jobs — Kelley with the Indiana Department of Transportation, Thralls and White with steel manufacturing companies. Thralls will work for Gerdau in Arkansas, while White will work at ArcelorMittal in East Chicago.

The three friends have another common bond — they are graduates of West Vigo High School. They joined three other West Vigo classmates who also are part of the Rose-Hulman class of 2014  — Marcus Lindsey, Austin Tewell and John Burt.

The six make up the largest West Vigo contingent to graduate from Rose-Hulman in a given year.

On Friday, Kelly, Thralls and White reflected on their accomplishment. “It’s kind of cool” for all six to make it through together, Thralls said.

“It’s nice knowing that we all made it,” White added.

Four have landed jobs, one will finish his studies in the fall and a sixth was still looking for a job, White said.

The students were close friends in high school and had a lot of the same classes together. They were on the JETS team, a high school engineering competition.

Rose-Hulman “is a lot different than high school, for sure,” said Kelley, a civil engineering major. “It’s really challenging, but there’s always help available. If you ask for help, you’re going to get help here, which was really nice.”

The college has a learning center and professors always have their door open, he said. He’s looking forward to having more free time, now that his studies are done, and a full-time job with benefits.

He is married to Emma — a West Vigo and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College graduate — and they have an 8-month-old daughter, Luna.

Thralls, a mechanical engineering major, agreed that his Rose-Hulman education has been “tough,” but it’s paid off with a good-paying job. He’s learned to work more efficiently and Rose-Hulman has helped him develop a strong work ethic.

The students agreed that while they didn’t have to study much in high school, that changed at Rose-Hulman.

Thralls accepted the job in Arkansas last week. “I didn’t want to move that far away, but it’s a really good opportunity and there should be plenty of things for me to do there,” he said.

He lived on campus three years, and White was his roommate their freshman year. He won’t soon forget the 3 a.m. runs to IHOP and the many friends he made at Rose.

He recalls his freshman year when a terrible ice storm struck the Wabash Valley, and about six people stayed in their small room because they couldn’t leave.

White, a chemical engineering major, said he’ll be living in Valparaiso and working in East Chicago. He and Thralls are working for “competing” companies.

They’ve know each other since eighth grade, he said. “It’s going to be tough because the last four years we’ve hung out almost weekly,” White said. They both had work-study jobs in the office of communications and marketing.

White’s excited about his new opportunity. It’s a good job, with great benefits and a competitive salary, he said. “I was very happy when I got it.”

He’ll be close to Chicago, a city the West Terre Haute native has visited just twice.

He’s going to have to borrow money to move to Valparaiso, “but come July, I should be well off,” White said.

He believes he was well-prepared for Rose-Hulman. The summer before he started, he began studying on his own. “I knew what to expect. “I was ready to hit the ground running,” White said.

That, and drinking plenty of Red Bull got him through.

White said he’s enjoyed his four years at Rose, but he’s ready to move on, he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or

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