TERRE HAUTE —
More than 1,200 Indiana State University students transitioned to alumni status on Saturday during the 142nd commencement.
And, more than 1,100 of those graduates turned out to turn their tassels, as their families and friends filled Hulman Center to the rafters.
Alumni speaker Maggie A. Lewis, now president of the Indianapolis City-County Council, encouraged the new graduates to not only dream big, but to take the steps necessary to reach beyond their own expectations.
“No matter how scared you are, you were created for greatness and success,” Lewis said. “No matter how insecure you are, hold on to your dreams, and don’t settle for less.”
Lewis told the student audience that if she had focused on the naysayers in her life, she would have become a teenage mother on public assistance. Her own mother gave birth to Lewis at the age of 16, but her mother also encouraged her to get as much education as she could.
“Because of my mother’s influence, I developed a deep interest in public service,” Lewis said.
She earned a bachelor of science degree in community health education and a master’s degree in public administration from Indiana State. She has worked for organizations assisting veterans, drug-free and neighborhood initiatives, and now serves as executive director of the Dove Recovery House for Women, the largest half-way house in Marion County.
Recognition of her community service in Indianapolis contributed to her election to the city-county council.
Lewis joked that if she could survive four years of the rigorous workouts with ISU’s Sparkettes, and four years of dorm food from Lincoln Quad, she decided could make it through an election for public office.
“The problem with many of us is we convince ourselves of why we can’t,” Lewis said. “But what could we do if we focused that energy instead on what we can do?”
Merely receiving a degree on Saturday should not be a final destination, Lewis told the graduates. And she encouraged them to remember that in the future, when they feel alone and want to give up, they have an entire ISU community supporting them.
Preceding Lewis with the student address was Britany Dawn Dean, a native of nearby Brazil who received a bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis in public relations.
Dean said that coming to Indiana State was “unexpected.” She was looking for an out-of-state college to attend, and wasn’t originally considering a college in her own back yard.
“Indiana State was the best choice and so many people in this community and across the world know that,” Dean said. “Each of you have your reasons for coming to ISU whether it was close to home, affordable, offered the best program, had great faculty and staff, or provided good job opportunities after graduation. But an even more important point is the reason why you chose to stay here.”
Dean said she found what she needed to achieve her goal of one day becoming a university president. Once she made her goal known to a mentor, she found herself in an internship in President Daniel Bradley’s office.
“Now, I realize that my dream of becoming a university president isn’t so crazy after all, and thanks to a mentor who believed in me, I have taken some real action to achieve this goal.”
Dean said that while coming to ISU was unexpected, she is now confident it was the best decision she ever made.
On Saturday, ISU conferred 30 doctoral degrees, 11 education specialists, 287 master’s degrees and 912 bachelor’s degrees for a total of 1,240.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.