Indiana State University Newsroom

‘Strive for significance,' speaker urges graduates

December 17, 2011

An Indiana State University alumnus who has made life better for millions of children called on graduates Saturday to go beyond success and make significant contributions to the world.

Dean Hirsch, former president of World Vision International, told graduates they are privileged to be among the fewer than 25 percent of Americans and 1 percent of the world's population to have a college degree.

"Never discount the privilege you've had to attend this great university," Hirsch said. "You've already demonstrated success. I want to challenge you to strive for something beyond success. I want you to strive for significance in your life."

Hirsch said he never imagined when he completed his master's degree at Indiana State that he would go on to serve as World Vision's ambassador to the United Nations, meet with heads of state, go to war zones and help cut the world's infant mortality rate in half.

Sharing lessons he learned while doing those things, he urged each graduate to be a good listener, never stop learning and "be a person with a good word."

Hirsch called on the graduates to excel at critical thinking on global issues - as well as on issues they face directly - and to provide encouragement to others.

"Don't just accept simplistic answers. You be the critical thinker that helps bring about solutions to the challenges that we face," he said. "It's easy to go out and be critical - and we see that today throughout the world. I challenge you to be those who have the good words, that are encouragers and that are civil in the discussions."

The road to significance starts by being a good listener, Hirsch said. "No one is too poor to give and to share their story. You will be better for hearing that story," he said. "No one is too rich that we cannot receive and lives can be changed and hearts can be changed as they hear the stories."
Hirsch said he learned that you feed a million hungry people "one at a time" and you address starvation and war by learning "how to talk and to bring sides of antagonism together and to work with them so that the children will have a safety net and have a better tomorrow."

As World Vision president and later as the organization's global ambassador, Hirsch helped refocus its development and advocacy work on behalf of children. He told about 600 Indiana State graduates he has hope for the future "because ... you have the opportunity to hear the stories and make a difference - not only in your community, but in this great state and in this country as well as throughout the world."

University President Dan Bradley echoed Hirsch's optimism.

"I continue to be impressed with all that our students accomplish and I am looking forward to seeing you enthusiastically apply the skill and knowledge you have garnered with at ISU to advance your careers, serve our communities and literally help change the world," Bradley said.

He urged graduates to look for opportunities to help the university grow in its service to future students, the state, nation and world and to "nurture and grow the personal relationships that you have formed with fellow students and faculty and staff at ISU."

Completing a bachelor's degree at 53, student commencement speaker Judy Branham also addressed graduates and a Hulman Center audience that included her husband, brother, son and other family members, including two granddaughters.

Branham, who enrolled at Indiana State in 2009 when she found herself unemployed, has learned through the years "that making good choices plays a very important part in how our life plays out."

Branham graduated with a bachelor's degree in communication and is looking toward a career as a free-lance writer.

While acknowledging her choices haven't always been the best, Branham said she was fortunate to have been surrounded by positive examples throughout my life, particularly from her family.

"These examples of strong work ethic, optimism in the face of defeat, and undying faith have led me to stand before you today," she said. "Without the examples and encouragement of my entire family I would never have achieved this diploma."

Branham's late father was a disabled veteran of World War II. She noted his service and the efforts of Parke County veterans service officers in helping her utilize veterans benefits to fulfill her dream of a college degree She used a portion of her address to recognize and thank all veterans in attendance.

She said she was also surrounded by great faculty and students at Indiana State.

"Thank you each for opening doors to my future. You make me proud to be a Sycamore," she said.

Photo: - Dean Hirsch, former president of World Vision International and a master's degree alumnus of Indiana State University, served as alumni speaker during the university's winter commencement on Dec. 17.

Photo: - Judy Branham, who completed a bachelor's degree in communication, was student commencement speaker during Indiana State University's winter graduation program on Dec. 17.

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or



Story Highlights

ISU alumnus Dean Hirsch, who has made life better for millions of children, called on graduates to go beyond success and make significant contriutions to the world.

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