Life experiences and overcoming obstacles were themes shared passionately by the speakers at OSU Institute of Technology’s commencement ceremony for the campus’s 208th graduating class.
The nearly 175 graduates sat in their caps and gowns at their commencement ceremony in Covelle Hall on Friday, Dec. 15, and heard from keynote speaker Dr. Regina Foster, an award-winning science instructor in the School of Arts & Sciences who also celebrated her retirement earlier that day.
“OSUIT is a special place, and I am so grateful to be a part of this family,” Foster said. “I have to say though, I feel strange standing in front of students without my white board and purple dry erase marker.”
Foster told the audience she tried to imagine what she would want— and need— to hear if she were a new graduate, so she came up with a list of principles to remember after they leave the graduation stage to start their careers. And the one that made the top of the list was empathy.
“As you move from school life to what we call ‘real life’… keep in mind that others carry burdens you cannot see. Empathy will make you a better husband or wife, a better parent or sibling, and a better employee or boss,” she said. “Sometimes we just really need to cut others some slack and acknowledge they may be facing burdens we know nothing about.”
That sentiment was especially true for student respondent Lamont Ware, whose journey to OSUIT’s School of Culinary Arts was filled with roadblocks and detours and could easily have never happened at all.
“It took a few left turns for me to get to where I am today. If you were to ask me five years ago about being here on stage as the student respondent receiving an Associate in Applied Science in Culinary Arts I would have laughed at you because you see, five years ago, I was in a serious battle with addiction,” Ware said.
After seven years of substance abuse and isolating himself from family and friends, it took the compassion of two of his oldest friends to finally get him to take the first step toward sobriety. He spent 10 months in a residential recovery center before calling his sister in Okmulgee to come and pick him up. Not long after, he applied and was accepted to OSUIT and started classes in the fall 2015 semester.
“I stand before you all today a humbled man. I stand before you today thankful for the second chance that I didn’t deserve. I stand before you all today clean and free of my addition. I am living proof that you can overcome and be successful,” he said.
Foster also encouraged the graduates to be tenacious, never stop learning and to not become so focused on one thing that they miss out on the rest of the world.
“Choosing that goal to pursue in life can be challenging, but you have already made that first, most difficult choice. You have chosen something to study, a career to pursue. My hope for you is that you have chosen something you love,” she said, but even then it won’t always be easy. “Even when we are doing things we love, work is work, and it will at times be difficult, but it is so much easier to do difficult things when they contribute to something you love.”
Ware told his fellow graduates, just before they and the audience gave him a standing ovation, that even though today feels like an ending, it’s really just the beginning for them.
“OSUIT has laid the foundation for us to be passionate and successful at whatever we do. Be humble in everything you do and, most importantly, be a better person today than you were yesterday.”