The dictionary defines a commencement as “a beginning, start, opening.” So the Spring Commencement Ceremony at Shawnee State University Saturday was less about leaving college and more about looking to the future with anticipation.
“I have an inkling, a suspicion that getting to where all of you are sitting here today, you probably didn’t do it alone,” SSU President Rick Kurtz told the graduates.
With those words, Kurtz gave credit to the faculty and had them stand, then addressed thousands of others who arrived early to get a seat.
“There’s another group here today that deserves all your recognition, your applause,” Kurtz said. “That’s all these people I see sitting back here. You don’t get here alone. It takes a support team, a pit crew, and for that we have parents; we have significant others; we have siblings; we have friends and the list goes on.”
The students were asked to turn around and give an ovation to those in attendance, which they did.
Nearly 490 Shawnee State University students graduated at this year’s Spring Commencement Ceremony Saturday morning on the Alumni Green on the campus of SSU.
Sixteen students graduated with master’s degrees, 294 with bachelor’s degrees, and 179 with associate degrees. Several SSU graduates graduated with honors, with 36 graduating Summa Cum Laude, 47 Magna Cum Laude and 77 Cum Laude.
The SSU class of 2016 included students from throughout Ohio and the nation, with international students from China, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.
Four thousand seats were filled immediately and for the rest who arrived to attend the ceremonies, it was standing room only.
State Representative Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) delivered the keynote address.
Johnson related a story about his years growing up on Scioto County’s Duck Run where he said he enjoyed throwing rocks into the creek.
“Every time I threw in a rock, concentric waves propagated from the point of impact. I was fascinated by the symmetry that unfolded before me,” Johnson said. “And by the way those tiny waves spread out, they only diminished when they hit the surrounding shores. Many years later — thinking about my countless hours of casting rocks into still waters — I came to understand that human interactions behave in a very similar fashion. Everytime we do something that impacts others, we spread our energy, our influence through them.
“If we do something positive; if we lift and inspire people; if we show them such things as kindness, understanding, forgiveness and mercy, influence will propagate slowly, steadily, inexoribly away from us as a pulse of positive energy. The more energetic or the more powerful the initial positive act then the further the ripples will go.”
Johnson told the crowd, “We are all interconnected and we are all in this together and even if we choose to do nothing at all, that too has consequences.”
Johnson, was, in effect, returning to his roots.
“I’ve got a long history with Shawnee State University,” Johnson told the Daily Times. “When I came out of high school in 1975, I went to Shawnee State Community College. I took two accounting classes at the vocational school. They had some satellite classes going on out there and then I was down at Massie Hall for my initial quarter and then I didn’t actually graduate with a degree until 1o years later.”
Johnson got a history degree from Ohio University, but when he made a decision not be go to law school, and instead to become a physician, he then got two years of pre-med at SSU.
“It’s one of the best things I ever did and it had a huge impact on what I did for my career,” Johnson said. “I love Shawnee State and anything that I can possibly do to help that school, I’m going to do.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.