Commencement 2021: A celebration of resilience and renewal

11th May 2021

By Steven Krolak

(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–After a few stormy days, the sun shone brightly as Indiana University Southeast conferred degrees at its 53rd Commencement on Monday.

The blue sky was fitting: The graduating students had weathered a global pandemic and persisted during a year of mostly online education to reach a sunny outcome.

“To call the past year challenging, would be an understatement,” said Dr. Ray Wallace, IU Southeast chancellor, to the graduating students. “Despite a global health crisis, you have persisted on your journey to obtain your degree. Your hard work, perseverance, and dedication have brought you to this moment, and I could not be more proud of each and every one of you.”

The Class of 2021 ranges in age from 19 to 65, and hails from 35 Indiana counties, 15 U.S. states and 19 countries of origin. Thirty-one percent of these candidates became the first in their families to attain an undergraduate degree.

The Class consists of 856 candidates earning 734 bachelor’s degrees, 134 master’s degrees and six associate’s degrees. Forty-nine students walked across the stage with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

The most popular degree to be granted Monday was the Bachelor of Science in Business.

Chancellor Wallace also recognized the Class of 2020, some of whose 919 members were present, having been deprived of a traditional commencement ceremony during the pandemic-related lockdown.

The student response was delivered by Hannah Shaffer ’20, a business major and Chancellor’s Medallion Scholarship recipient from Hanover, Indiana, who has both excelled academically in the Honors Program and immersed herself in student organizations including Crimson Crew, Peer Mentoring and more.

Shaffer reflected on her time at IU Southeast, now defined by the challenges of the pandemic, which forced her and her classmates to dig deep and find the resolve to overcome the circumstances.

“During our time at IU Southeast, we met people who will be our lifelong friends, we made connections with professors who challenged us to think in ways that blew our whole worlds open,” Shaffer said. “We learned what it meant to be human: To fail even though we tried our hardest to succeed, but when we did rise up to the occasion, feeling like we were on top of the world and no one could stop us.”

IU Southeast has awarded nearly 35,000 degrees over the past half century. Nearly 80 percent of graduates remain in Indiana and the Louisville metropolitan area.

Artist and entrepreneur Cynthia Torp ’84 was presented with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in recognition of her many contributions to the artistic, cultural and business environment in Southeast Indiana and beyond.

The Distinguished Alumni Award was bestowed upon Dr. William Cooke, a graduate of IU Southeast (1994) and the IU School of Medicine (2001) who has developed innovative approaches to addressing the medical needs of people in resource-poor communities.

In recognition of his 14 years of leadership, and his deep and abiding support for IU’s regional campuses, IU President Michael A. McRobbie was presented with the IU Southeast Chancellor’s Medallion, alongside Chancellor’s Medallions from the other regionals.

Diane Reid, senior lecturer in communications, read the names of graduating students for the final time in her 40-year career at IU Southeast.

“It is the dream of every educator, and of every parent, for the next generation to be better–and better off,” Chancellor Wallace said. “You, the members of the Class of 2021 and 2020, are living proof of IU Southeast’s vision to shape the future of our region by transforming good students into great leaders, one graduate at a time.”

See a gallery of Commencement photos here.

Homepage photo by Hannah Heffley.

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