RIO GRANDE — Mother Nature may have darkened the sky on Saturday, but the 391 graduates of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College shined bright during its 138th Commencement.
Friends and family from near and far gathered in the Lyne Center located on the Rio Grande campus to honor the Class of 2014. For some the journey was simple, just a short drive down the road. But others came from as far away as Montana, Wales and Columbia to share in the memorable day.
A total of 413 degrees — 219 associate degrees, 158 bachelor’s degrees and 36 master’s degrees — were conferred. Countless pictures were taken and lasting memories shared.
“For all of you, this is an achievement that represents hard work and perseverance. I hope you will take a moment to soak in what you’ve accomplished and to be proud of being here,” said keynote speaker and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judi French.
Justice French delivered a memorable speech, apologizing for those who expected to see Judge Judy and sharing “a few basic rules that I try to live by.”
Rule Number 1: know yourself, and be true to that person regardless of what outside pressures exist.
Rule Number 2: consider every opportunity that comes your way for personal or professional growth. Life can be like a game of cards, keep an eye out for the card that gives you a winning hard.
Rule Number 3: Don’t be afraid. Justice French reference this as perhaps the most important rule, and not always easy to accomplish.
“As you think about who you are and what you want to do next, I hope you will do so without fear of falling or looking foolish,” she said. “I hope you will surround yourself with hopeful, positive people who will encourage you to pursue your own, personal path, just as you encourage them.”
Justice French received a round of applause from the graduates, and an honorary doctorate in Public Service from Rio Grande. University Board of Trustees Chair Jack Finch, Community College Board of Trustees Vice-Chair Larry Kidd and President Barbara Gellman-Danley presented the honorary degree.
Among those also degrees were Mark Anthony Bentley and Cody J. McNeely, who each earned four degrees. Each earned their Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology, Associate in Technical Science in Industrial Automation and Associate of Applied Science in Plant Maintenance Technology. Bentley also earned an Associate of Technical Science in Power Plant Mechanical Maintenance, while McNeely earned an Associate in Technical Science in Welding.
The Class of 2014 also featured award-winning artist Kayla Malone, published author and teacher Jordan Pickens, and Mayo Clinic-bound Emily Burnham.
Malone was one of six Ohio seniors honored at the seventh annual Awards for Excellence in the Visual Arts hosted by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio. It was the second consecutive year a Rio art student was honored.
Pickens, an Integrated Social Studies Education graduate, co-authored “Meigs County” with professor emeritus Ivan Tribe. The book is among Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series and brings the rich history of Meigs County to life through more than 200 vintage images and captions.
Burnham, a Radiologic Technology graduate from Montana, was accepted and will enroll in the prestigious Radiologic Therapy program at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota this fall.
Saturday’s Commencement also saw the graduates, along with their friends and family, give a round of applause to President Gellman-Danley. Rio Grande’s 21st president has been appointed president of the Higher Learning Commission, effective July 7.
As has become tradition, a tearful President Gellman-Danley wrote and delivered her Class of 2014 poem. Titled “Ride The Rainbow,” the poem was a fitting final tribute on a rainy day in southeastern Ohio.
“I believe life is a rainbow — celebrate its beauty. Embracing opportunities is actually your duty,” President Gellman-Danley said. “You’ve done that by committing to earn your degree. For the rest of your lives, it can set you free.”