By Joseph Pratt
Shawnee State University (SSU) graduated 579 students this semester at two separate commencements Saturday, May 3.
This group of students only makes a small portion of the nearly 15,000 students who have graduated from Shawnee State University since their beginning in 1986. The commencements were split in half after the school decided to move the spring graduation indoors, pending weather issues and issues with the new sod placed in the recently renovated Alumni Green, which was a multi-million dollar project for a completely redesigned and modernized plaza.
The first commencement was at 10 a.m. and hosted graduating students whose last names begin with letters A-K and the second for graduates with last names beginning with L-Z was held at 2 p.m.
Senator Joe Uecker was a special guest at the ceremony and was commented on by SSU President Dr. Rita Morris.
“Shawnee State University is here today because of the vision of Ohio leaders who made certain there is a university here in southern Ohio where you could study,” Morris explained. “Representing the citizens of the State of Ohio today is Senator Joe Uecker. His efforts have helped Shawnee State University continue to grow and serve this region.”
Of the guests to help present degrees and to aid in the ceremony, one included Provost Dr. Dave Todt, who is stepping down as provost this year. Morris spoke briefly about Todt’s work for SSU.
“The Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs is also stepping down at the end of this term. Dr. Dave Todt has served in this role for seven years. During this period he has been instrumental in the bringing of many talented faculty to Shawnee State who will teach many more years and impact the lives of many more students,” Morris said. “Thank you, Dr. Todt, for your efforts on the behalf of our graduates and those to come.”
Of the 579 graduating students, 338 received bachelor’s degrees; 234 received associate’s degrees and 7 received master’s degrees. 33 of the graduates today will graduate Summa Cum Laude, with a grade point average of 3.9 or above; 35 graduated Magna Cum Laude, with a grade average of 3.75 to 3.89 and 93 graduated Cum Laude with an average of 3.50 to 3.74. 13 of the graduates were with the university honors program and 28 percent of the graduating 2014class graduated with honors.
“They are tried and tested,” Morris said. “They know their stuff and they are ready to take on the world.”
Morris continues to talk about how challenging the world can be and commented on recent news of storms and tornadoes that have killed people and torn apart communities. She said she has been thinking heavily about heroes and the people who stand up to care for individuals who need assistance in these emergencies. Not just first responders or national emergency services, but the volunteers who go out of their way to help and step outside their routine to take care of those impacted by storms.
“I have been thinking a lot about those people—those heroes, those everyday heroes. Those people who run into the storms to rescue people; those people who bring food and needed items and provide shelter; those teachers last year who sheltered young children during a tornado in Oklahoma without even knowing whether their own children were safe; those people who overtook a terrorist intent on crashing a plane as part of the worst tragedy on American soil; those teachers who sacrificed themselves for their students during an attack upon their school; those citizens who took care of the wounded at the Boston Marathon; and all those people who take care of one another every day,” Morris said.
The graduating students were reminded that everyday people can be heroes and Morris said that she looks forward to watching their accomplishments in their chosen field and the roles they play as heroes.
Morris also wrapped up her speech with a movie quote, as she always does. This spring’s quote was from “The Dark Knight Rises,” and tied in with her speech about everyday heroes.
“In honor of everyday heroes, I will leave you with the words of Batman: ‘A hero can be anyone—Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy’s shoulder to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.”
Joseph Pratt can be reached at the Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 287, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.