Commencement speaker tells grads

December 15 2007

TERRE HAUTE - Kirby Rice reminded her fellow graduates that they learned more lessons than those in the classroom during Indiana State University’s 2007 Winter Commencement Saturday afternoon.

More than 850 students were eligible to walk across the stage • about 650 for undergraduate degrees and about 200 for advanced degrees.

In welcoming the family and friends of the graduate, ISU President Lloyd W. Benjamin III said the university takes pride in the role it plays in the students’ lives in helping them gain the skills and knowledge necessary to take them toward success. By doing so, the university also contributes to Indiana’s future.

“Not only do the majority of Indiana State University graduates choose to stay in Indiana, thus doing their part to stem the state’s ‘brain drain,’ but because of Indiana State University’s focus on engagement and experiential learning and its efforts to foster leadership development and a lifelong commitment to active citizenship, these graduates are willing and able to be involved in their communities,” he said.

Rice, a journalism major from Brownstown, infused her speech with humor as she spoke about some of the many lessons they learned.

“We learned that eight hours of sleep we were supposed to get weren’t always necessary, and sometimes all-nighters were,” she said. “We learned that even though the label on the Ramen noodles says to heat for three minutes, that’s just too long, and you will burn your tongue. We learned friends do come and go, but the best ones are never too far away. We finally learned that sometimes parents really do know best, and you’re never too old to ask them for help.”

Rice, who also received the President’s Medal for Leadership, Scholarship and Service, offered up some advice as the graduates crossed the doorway into their future, either with jobs or with continuing their education.

“We know it won’t be easy. There will be days when we feel like we just can’t do it anymore. We’ll bend until we almost break, and some days we will,” she said. We’ll think we’ve failed, probably more than once. That’s not failure. Shake it off, call it a day, learn from it and move on. You will never know what you’re made of until push comes to shove. So when you fall down, get back up. Sooner or later it will all fall into place, and that’s when we’ll know we can do anything we want. That’s when we’ll start to leave our mark.”

Saturday proved to be the realization of more than one goal for Rice.

“It’s just always been a dream of mine,” Rice said on being selected to be the speaker. “I enjoy speaking in front of people.”

Rice, who received a President’s Scholarship at ISU, was familiar with the university because a sister and a cousin attended the school.

“I knew I liked the atmosphere,” she said.

Rice, who currently works for television station WTHI Channel 10, hopes to work as a television reporter.

One graduate, Amanda Wilson, an education major from Fort Wayne, received the Hines Memorial Medal for achieving a 4.0 grade point average. The award, named for Linnaeus Neal Hines, who served as university president from 1921 through 1933, is given to the graduating senior with the highest grade point average.

“I really have my family, friends and professors to thank for their support and encouragement while at ISU,” she said.

Yet, as a young elementary student, Wilson struggled with learning to read. A teacher in second grade, who helped her to win that battle, impacted her future in more than one way.

“By the end of second grade, I was beginning to read,” she said. “I was never labeled as having a learning disability because I just needed more direct instruction than was given to me in kindergarten and first grade. Reflecting back, I am so very grateful that those teachers gave me the intervention I needed to get me on track to be successful throughout my schooling.”

From that experience, Wilson wanted to become a teacher and she said ISU’s program combining special education and elementary education allowed her to pursue that dream.


Writer: Jennifer Sicking, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, at 812-237-7972 or

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