On the distinguished stage, President Michael McRobbie, Provost Lauren Robel and many more who play a significant role in the success of IU stood overlooking the rows of students who awaited the words they had been looking forward to for years — “Congratulations, graduates.”
Four graduates all receiving their master of public health degrees from the School of Public Health stood outside the doors of Assembly Hall making finishing touches on their gowns and snapping photos.
These four students — Desiree Chenault, Hannah Boyer, Elizabeth Peyton and Erin Adams — all met and bonded during their years in the master' s program.
Chenault said it didn’t feel like the end.
“It doesn’t feel real,” she said. “Still abstract.”
Boyer said she agreed.
“This is way more special than undergrad graduation though,” she said. “We became really close while in the program. That is one of the differences from undergrad.”
McRobbie welcomed students, families and friends of the graduate commencement to Assembly Hall Friday. His speech was followed by “The Star-Spangled Banner,” sung by Gwyn Richards, dean of the Jacobs School of Music, and an invocation led by Father John Meany of St. Paul Catholic Center.
McRobbie then awarded Paul O’Neill, former United States Secretary of the Treasury, with an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
O’Neill came to IU in 1966 while on leave from his government post. He completed a master of public administration degree.
“Whatever you do in life, make time to have fun,” O’Neill said in his address. “Put yourself in the way of opportunity. Let it happen to you, and if you are as fortunate as I have been, it will work.”
In his introduction, McRobbie expressed his deep appreciation of O’Neill’s presence at the ceremony and his support for the University.
O’Neill, a philanthropist for IU, has presented the School of Public and Environmental Affairs with the largest endowment in its history — a donation of $3 million.
“Secretary O’Neill is a generous philanthropist,” McRobbie said in his introduction for O’Neill’s speech. “He has maintained strong ties with the school and has come to speak to students over the years. We are deeply grateful.”
McRobbie then spoke to IU graduates before offering the podium to Robel for the conferral of degrees.
She introduced each dean of the schools, and he or she recognized those who were graduating from their particular school.
Hanging from the caps of each student was a different color tassel, symbolizing the designated school he or she has been a student of for their undergradute career. The tassel color differed and the school they stood for differed, yet the students sitting in Assembly Hall Saturday graduated together as one, representing the 2014 class of IU.
Undergraduate exercises were split into two 90-minute ceremonies.
All schools outside of the College of Arts and Sciences attended the 10 a.m. commencement. The College ceremony took place at 3 p.m.
Graduates entered in a single file line, smiling ear-to-ear and scouring the audience for friends and families.
The Herald Trumpeters sounded their trumpets as they began fanfare, playing the short musical flourish harmoniously in euphonic synchrony. The audience silenced, and the procession began.
The Grand Marshal led the platform party procession — administration, commencement speakers, trustees and deans — followed by the heraldic banners graphically symbolizing the different schools at IU.
In his welcome address, McRobbie highlighted the significance of a college degree and acknowledged that the graduation ceremony doesn’t adequately commensurate the students’ years of hard work.
“Earning a college degree is an unparalleled accomplishment,” McRobbie said. “Our ceremony today is brief compared to the years of diligent work that these candidates have invested in their education.”
Irish president Michael D. Higgins was conferred an honorary doctorate of humane letters and delivered both undergraduate commencement addresses.
Higgins attended IU for two years before receiving his master’s degree in sociology in 1967.
In his speech, he reminisced about his time at IU.
“I wish that all of you had as pleasant a time and, even more important, as interesting a time of discovering achievement here at Indiana University as I had 47 years ago,” Higgins said.
He cautioned the graduates against intellectual hubris, urging them to remain open-minded.
“Those who have the benefit of education must always guard against an arrogance of knowledge,” Higgins said. “They must always base their intellectual endeavors on the merits of curiosity, equality, respect and must remain open to new ideas.”
These new ideas and experiences can come in many ways, which student speaker Christopher Kauffman reflected on in his speech Saturday morning.
The prospect of moving into a dorm freshman year with a randomly assigned roommate, flying alone in Beijing for a study abroad program, nail-biting during IU sporting events, joining a fraternity, writing a senior thesis, going on the road with a rock band, and testifying in front of Senate Committees were just some of the uncomfortable experiences Kauffman was met with during the past four years.
“I have found merit in being uncomfortable,” Kauffman said. “At the time what seemed so unbearable now seems so integral to my life in the form of lasting friendships, passions for travel in my field of study and a closer connection to this University.”
Despite graduation being the formal end to some graduates’ education, Kauffman said he believes students never stop learning.
“We can always be students,” Kauffman said. “We can always explore, inquire and try new things. This education transcends pen, paper, textbook, touching every aspect of our lives.”
Parker Mantell, the student commencement speaker at the afternoon ceremony, delivered a triumphant message of overcoming adversity and combating doubt with confidence, a message he deemed imperative.
“The message I have to share is one that must be heard,” Mantell said.
Mantell, who has a speech disorder, graduated with a degree in political science and has completed internships in the Washington D.C., offices of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senator Marco Rubio and in the office of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
“Far too often society has instilled and reinforced the idea that those of us with disabilities are to remain disabled and perhaps even incapable,” Mantell said. “We have been tacitly yet resoundingly told to doubt both ourselves and our abilities.”
Doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever will, he added.
Mantell concluded his address by challenging the graduates.
“Imagine what you are depriving the world of if you never dare to achieve your purpose,” he said. “I challenge you to stop believing in those who cast doubt upon you and to start believing in yourselves.”
Mantell’s address was met with a roaring 30-second standing ovation.
“I think he had a really sincere speech,” IU graduate Barton Girdwood said. “It was really emotional for me.”
Following the student commencement addresses, the class of 2014’s degrees were awarded.
McRobbie made his closing remarks, and the ceremony ended with the singing of IU’s alma mater, “Hail To Old IU.”
As the commencement came to a close, emotions ran high.
“I feel liberated but bittersweet at the same time,” IU graduate Stephen Stepnoski said. “It really didn’t hit me until I walked out of Assembly Hall.”
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