IUK holds 54th graduation

May 10—There is a sculpture of the phoenix at Indiana University Kokomo. It's been on campus for almost 60 years.

The mythical bird rises from its own ashes to be born again. Andrea Saylor called on this story as she encouraged her classmates in their future endeavors.

"Today marks one of the greatest achievements of your life," she said, adding it's just one of many to come.

Saylor addressed the 54th graduating class of IUK as its commencement speaker under a warm spring sun Wednesday morning.

Like how the phoenix is born again, Saylor found a new start at IUK.

Saylor's dad died of cancer when she was a child, leaving her mom to care for her and her siblings. He was also her tennis coach.

Feeling burnt out, Saylor played tennis for only one year in high school. But IUK and tennis coach Kristine Miller came calling. Saylor, from Terre Haute, enrolled and joined the team.

"IUK gave me the opportunity not only to start over but to grow," she said.

Saylor encouraged graduates not to listen to the limits others place on them, sentiments such as "not skilled enough," "not smart enough" and "not strong enough."

"We are only capable of the image we create for ourselves," Saylor said. "The time is not now, the time is always, and it's time to spread your wings."

More than 650 degrees were conferred during the ceremony.

This year's graduating class featured students from 40 Indiana counties, 13 states and 14 countries. More than one-third of graduates are first-generation students.

"This is a huge accomplishment," IUK Chancellor Mark Canada said of the first-generation graduates.

Canada noted success stories of select students, including Anahi Santos. The first-generation student served as a cadet for the campus police department. Santos will attend the Indiana University Police Academy.

Canada called on graduates to make a difference.

"Knowledge and skills are critical when it comes to making a difference," he said. "Do something that will make a positive influence. The world will be better because of you."

Ages of graduates ranged from 19 to 64. The most popular degrees were in nursing and business.

Parents, friends and family cheered their graduates on as they crossed the stage in their gowns and decorated caps. One student had a cheering section that brought air horns.

IU President Pamela Whitten conferred the degrees, making the students true graduates. They were also inducted into the IU Alumni Association.

Graduate Trisha Norfleet, from Kokomo, represented the class during this part of the ceremony.

"I challenge each of you to support your university and alumni with your time and talent," she said.

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at spencer.durham@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.