Indiana State University celebrates spring commencement

May 11—Indiana State University's 2024 spring commencement Saturday brought tears of joy, and sorrow, cheers of celebration and words of inspiration.

A total of 1,547 Sycamores graduated during three commencement ceremonies at Hulman Center.

During the morning graduate student ceremony, 69 doctoral, 17 education specialist and 296 master's degrees were conferred, according to ISU. At noon and 3 p.m., 1,165 students earned a bachelor's degree.

The most moving moment of the noon ceremony came when Zina Morgan went on stage and accepted a posthumous degree on behalf of her daughter, Zinyetta. The degree was bestowed by ISU President Deborah Curtis.

Zinyetta Morgan, 24, died April 16 in a traffic accident. A senior, she would have graduated Saturday. Students gave Zina Morgan, who held a photo of her daughter, a standing ovation.

The student speaker at the noon commencement, Julio Rosales, is a first-generation college student whose immigrant parents inspired his passion for law, politics and immigration.

He described some of the "unconventional moments in history" that have shaped the students, including 9/11, around the time many of them were born. It was a time when the world "transitioned into a new phase of fear."

Then, as they went to college, "the pandemic hit us in our face and shifted our worlds once again."

Rosales told graduates to remember that they are role models who can influence others in significant ways.

Also, "We are the generation that is bold and eager to change the future. And with our abundance of identities, we are no doubt the generation to make a difference," Rosales said.

The alumni speaker was Rondrell Moore, WTHI-TV news anchor, who graduated from ISU in 2008.

Moore told graduates that while they will undoubtedly encounter some failure and disappointment in their lives, they should use those experiences to become stronger and to fuel their path to success.

He talked about the setbacks and disappointments he's encountered, which he likened to fertilizer ("it stank"), "but man did it yield a harvest of motivation."

When he graduated from ISU in 2008, he was devastated when he wasn't chosen to give a commencement speech. He had worked hard on it, practiced and even became obsessed over it. (He initially, jokingly, referred to that student as Fawndrell Gloor).

"So imagine my surprise 16 years later when that same school asked me to give the commencement address," he told the audience.

"Failure, disappointment and sometimes even bitterness don't have to be the end of your story," he said.

Moore also talked about his career journey, which wasn't straight from college to evening anchor. "It involved years of 12-hour shifts, pay that neared poverty levels, run-ins with adversity and intense racism," he said.

He was told "this area 'isn't ready' for a black anchor. Mind you, this was in 2008, not 1908," Moore said.

But he chose not to listen to the naysayers, he said. "No one could change God's will for me." He had the ability to make it happen, based on his actions.

In 2016, "Those same voices that said I couldn't be an anchor in this area because of my race ... were congratulating me for becoming the first ever black male evening anchor in this television market," Moore said

He told graduates their paths to greatness may not be seamless, "but I'm confident, you're going to do some amazing things."

Just prior to the ceremony, Noah Bolt gathered outside Hulman Center with family for photos and video. He graduated with a major in sport management and minor in coaching and exercise science.

Achieving graduation "feels great ... I'm on to that next stage in life where now I've just got to figure out what's next," he said. One day he'd like to become an athletic director.

The immediate next step is graduate school and a master's in business administration. He's also a thrower in ISU's track and field program and has another year of eligibility.

Bolt's mom shed joyful tears. "I'm so proud. He's the baby of five. It's so lovely to see your kids grow into adults ... Being a student-athlete is like holding a full-time job while you're going to school," she said.

Also celebrating Saturday was Kimmie Collins of Terre Haute, who participated in the earlier graduate ceremony and received a master's degree in communication. She was the graduate ceremony student speaker.

"It is amazing to graduate. Indiana State has been part of my life for so long and I love Indiana State and the people so much. It's kind of weird to say goodbye," she said.

The commencement speech was "kind of like my final love letter to ISU," Collins said. "I will always be a Sycamore and I'm so grateful for all the experiences I've had. I'm so proud of everybody who's graduating this weekend."

She'll be part of the social media team for the Scripps National Spelling Bee later this month. "It's so much fun," she said.

Other future plans are "in the works," she said. She plans to stay in Terre Haute.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on X at @TribStarSue.