And for the first time in the two decades that SSU has had its graduation ceremony outside, it rained, sending many people headed toward their cars
Greg Gibbs, of Portsmouth, who graduated with honors in electrical mechanical engineering, said the rain didn't dampen his spirits at all.
“I was afraid it was going to rain, but it was all right,” he said. “At least there weren't thunderstorms.”
Gibbs plans to go to Miami University in the fall and has an internship at AK Steel in Ashland, Ky.
Rachel Caldwell, of Athens, graduated with a degree in occupational therapy, took a philosophical approach to the rain.
“It doesn't matter much about the weather, it's about getting the degree that you earned,” she said. “You kind of want your graduation to be a nice, wonderful day. But something like this will make me remember my graduation for years to come.”
Portsmouth native and former Pittsburgh Pirate Al Oliver was the commencement speaker. Oliver, who also served as SSU's first baseball coach, received an honorary bachelor's degree.
SSU President Rita Rice Morris said never having a college degree was one of Oliver's unfulfilled dreams.
“We can rectify that,” she said before conferring a Bachelor of Humane Letters degree for his distinguished service to the community.
Oliver was accepted at Kent State University in May of 1968 but didn't go because the Pirates called him up to the Major Leagues in June of that year. He spent the next 18 years playing baseball, including when the Pirates won the 1971 World Series.
“I did go to Kent State for a cup of coffee” he told the assembled students. “But in your case, not only did you go get a cup of coffee or tea, you now have the full course.”
Oliver called education vital to today's society.
“I know one thing for certain - education is a great opportunity for success,” he said. “You have reached home, now go out into the world and make a difference in your community wherever it might be.”
MARK SHAFFER can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.