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Record-setting Ivy Tech class graduates

By Mike Leonard 331-4368 | mleonard@heraldt.com
May 15, 2010

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THE CEREMONY: Commencement for the Bloomington campus of Ivy Tech Community College was 6 p.m. Friday at the Indiana University Auditorium. The Ivy Tech system is the state’s largest public post-secondary educational institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited community college system, with more than 150,000 students at campuses across the state.

NUMBER OF GRADUATES: Almost 500 local students, a record number, completed associate degrees, technical certificates and other citations.

STUDENT SPEAKERS: Monique Dallas, a business administration major and president of the Indiana chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society; Christopher Reinhart, a design technology major and this year’s winner of the Ivy Tech Jeanine C. Rae Humanitarian Award; and Rick Wagers, a business administration graduate and member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

WHAT THEY SAID: Dallas quoted Winston Churchill’s motivational line, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Reinhart drew from his experience in the school’s ecology club and said, “Trash is a concept humankind must move beyond.” He will begin a five-year program to get a master’s degree in architecture at Ball State University next week.

Laid-off automotive worker Wagers’ first words from the lectern were, “Visteon. All right!” He talked about the challenges of returning to school in mid-life and said, “A resurrected dream is worth celebrating.”
SOMETHING SPECIAL: The clarion call of a bagpiper standing on the auditorium steps signaled to everyone entering the building that this was a special occasion.

TEACHING EXCELLENCE: Larry Strain was recognized with the President’s Award for Excellence in Instruction. Known for his humility, he said prior to commencement that it would be his greatest accomplishment if 20 years from now one of his students says, “One of the best classes I ever took was a programming course at Ivy Tech, but I can’t remember the name of the professor!”

MOST MOVING: The several pauses that student speaker Wagers took to collect himself as the emotions of the moment threatened made his voice break up.

CARRYING THE TORCH: State Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington, noted from her seat in the audience that she was part of the second graduating class that Ivy Tech-Bloomington’s nursing program produced, in 1995. “I am the only Ivy Tech graduate serving in the Legislature,” she said.

IVY STORIES: Arisha Anderson (formerly Palocious) came to Bloomington from Chicago in the early 1990s to train under IU track coach Sam Bell and attempt to make the U.S. Olympic team in the heptathlon. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 30 and now is healthy and the recipient of an associate degree in applied science, specializing in early childhood development. She will begin working as a program assistant at Campus View Child Care Center.

Richard Thompkins of Mitchell had a wife, two kids and a comfortable life before layoffs began at the Visteon plant in Bedford. “It was a life-changing thing,” he said after the ceremony, the sound of the Showalter Fountain splashing behind him. “It was a blessing in disguise.” The 54-year-old Thompkins graduated with honors in business administration.

Jodi Pope-Pfingston taught math at Ivy Tech before enrolling herself in the nursing program. She carried a bouquet of flowers given to her by one of the students she taught before becoming a student herself. “I studied archeology at IU, bringing dead people back to life,” she said. “Now I want to help the living.”

graduates
Ivy Tech graduates let their caps fly Friday night outside the Indiana University Auditorium. Monty Howell | Herald-Times

graduates
Nancy Coffey checks her text messages Friday while walking into the Indiana University Auditorium for the Ivy Tech Community College graduation ceremony. Monty Howell | Herald-Times

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