This past Friday evening, Terra State celebrated its 47th Commencement, honoring the nearly 270 graduates in the class of 2016. This ceremony is special not only to our students but also to our faculty and staff, who have worked relentlessly to help our students achieve their goals of attaining a degree or certificate. From the snapshots below, one can feel the excitement, joy and pride of this evening – a truly wonderful event.

The student address was given by Tyler Aldrich, who is active in the Terra State student government and an employee at the CollegeStore. Tyler shared some of his personal history and the fact that he is “living with autism.” His advice to his fellow graduates was inspiring and honest – urging us to “be a person of hope, impact, and be a person of change” and to understand that “challenges are what make life interesting, but overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” According to Tyler, there are only three choices in life: 1. Give Up, 2. Give In or 3. Give it all you’ve got. Personally, I like the sound of the last option.

Tyler exemplifies what it means to be a proud Terra State grad, calling the College his hometown gem. Thank you Tyler for reminding us that obstacles can be overcome with dedication, hard work and a positive attitude.

Tyler Aldrich – Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice Graduate

Another special moment was the awarding of the 2015-2016 graduate award for perseverance. This year the committee received so many worthy nominations, they couldn’t choose just one. Heath Martin, Dean of Enrollment and Student Services, presented this award to Acacia Hull, Teresa Laeng and David Smith. To read about Teresa’s story, along with two other 2016 grads, click here.

Our commencement speaker, U.S. Senator Rob Portman, congratulated students on their successes and told them, “You’re starting a new chapter. There’s a reason we don’t call this just a graduation, this is commencement and you’re commencing something new which is taking everything you’ve learned here to be able to go forward.”

Instead of giving a speech full of advice for the future, he chose to relay a story about “Easy Eddie” and his son Butch O’Hare. Eddie worked for the gangster Al Capone and eventually provided information that aided federal authorities in sending Capone to prison for income tax evasion. He sullied his family name by working for Capone and was shot to death at the age of 46. In his pocket was a clipping from a magazine with the following text:

 The clock of life is wound but once
 And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.

Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in time.
For the clock may soon be still.

 On the other hand, his son Butch was the Navy’s first Ace of WWII and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor for acts of bravery including destroying five enemy bombers and preventing a Japanese squadron from attacking an unguarded American fleet. He was killed at the age of 29 in aerial combat less than a year later. Butch was also honored by his hometown of Chicago when they named the O’Hare airport after him – elevating his family’s name to a place of honor.

Senator Portman concluded by telling graduates “that the clock of life is wound but once – take advantage of it. Do your own courageous things in your daily life and make us all proud.”

Whether you are 17 or 66 (the youngest and oldest graduates in the class of 2016), we hope you give it all you’ve got and make the most of your new achievement. Thank you for being part of the Terra State family and congratulations on being a #ProudTerraStateGrad!