Indiana State University Newsroom

Commencement long time coming for nursing grad

May 7, 2012

When Sandi Schantz of Lowell graduated from Indiana State University in 1978, she did not take part in the springtime rite of passage known as commencement.

Her father, a longtime dairy farmer, was so accustomed to the routine of feeding and milking that he never ventured far from home even though he had retired from farming by the time Schantz was in college.

That meant no overnight trips for her mom and dad even when Schantz' classmates took part in graduation ceremonies at Hulman Center, the multi-purpose arena Larry Bird had just begun to make famous when Schantz completed her bachelor's degree in nursing. For her parents to have attended graduation, it would have required a six-hour round trip drive and that would have meant staying overnight or, at the very least, returning to their Lake County home after dark.

"I can only remember us taking a few day trips growing up because you went and you came back and that's what happened on graduation. He came down and he loaded me up," Schantz recalled. "He wasn't about to hang around all day because he had to get home before dark."

But on Saturday, Schantz finally took part in an ISU commencement ceremony, crossing the stage at Hulman Center and shaking hands with university President Dan Bradley, three presidents removed from Richard Landini, who led ISU for most of Schantz' time as a student.

"We finished the story," said Bob Schantz, Sandi's husband who worked with university officials to arrange for her to take part in the ceremony 34 years after she completed her studies.Bob got the idea after the couple attended a nephew's college graduation in Florida a few years back.

"I must have said something at the time like, "Gee, I never got to do that," Sandi said. "I don't know exactly what I said but that's what planted the seed in his head."

While she missed her own class' commencement and an address by Bob Keeshan, whom her generation grew up watching as TV's "Captain Kangaroo," she did get to take part in the traditional nurses' pinning ceremony, though she has since lost her ISU nurse's pin.

"Back when I got out of nursing school, when you went to work you wore your hat, you wore your pin proudly and of course your white uniform, white socks and white shoes and you don't see any of that now - none of it. It's quite a different scene than it was then," she said. "When I went to work in my spanking white uniform, boy, people knew you were a nurse."

While Sandi said the move away from the wearing of traditional nurses' garb that began a few years after she completed her degree "takes away from the professionalism," she acknowledged that she and other nurses now feel more comfortable at work when dressed in scrubs and that "those goofy hats" have been relegated to the closet of history.

Other things have changed for the better. Nursing students now get to practice on a simulated human arm before actually giving an immunization to a human and there is even a full suite of human patient simulators for ISU students to work with in Union Hospital's former intensive care unit.

"I think I cried before I gave my first shot to my best friend," she said. "I was so afraid that needle was going to break off."

Sandi described her time at ISU as an exciting period. Kurt Thomas made the Sycamores known nationally - and even internationally - for gymnastics even as Bird did the same with basketball. But other famous names also played at Hulman Center: Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Helen Reddy and America.

But there was little time for entertainment, Sandi explained.

"Nursing students we were not considered much fun because we studied all the time," she said. "We were never in our dorms, we were either at the lab or working and we didn't party because we had to work."Sandi worked at the Pickerl Hall switchboard plugging and unplugging cables to connect and disconnect calls and "clicking a little buzzer to ring the phone in students' rooms."

Working the switchboard not only helped Sandi pay her way through college, "it was a good time to meet people in the dorm that I never saw otherwise," she said.

After completing her degree, Sandi worked at Union Hospital in Terre Haute for one year and then moved to Franciscan St. Anthony Health in Crown Point where she has worked ever since.

Sandi credits her time at Indiana State with helping her learn to live on her own.

"I grew up at ISU, you know that four years when you're finally on your own. No one's going to make you do your homework anymore. No one's going to make you study. You either do it or you don't," she said. "Studies were hard and there was more than once I probably called home and said, ‘I can't do this. Come get me.' Of course, back then, you only called home once a week because it was too expensive. Mom would say to call her back on the weekend and let her know how it was. I would stick it out and by then the crisis was over."

Bob and Sandi were high school sweethearts forced into a long-distance relationship when his family returned to their original hometown of Fort Wayne before the couple's senior year at Lowell High School. Her decision to enroll at Indiana State made for an even longer-distance relationship that often saw Bob drive to Lowell from Fort Wayne, then hitch a ride with her parents to see Sandi in Terre Haute. In fact, he made just such a trip in 1978 to help move his future bride back to Lowell.

After more than three decades and after Sandi spoke about her missed commencement, Bob decided to take matters into his own hands and investigate the possibility of her taking part in class of 2012's graduation.

"I think she just always had felt she missed something that she didn't get to be part of the graduation ceremony. She had mentioned kind of longingly that she had missed it," he said.Bob was determined to give his wife the opportunity to don cap and gown and experience a "real" graduation. He contacted nursing Professor Esther Acree, a former instructor of Sandi's, and Acree helped arrange for Sandi to experience a moment her nursing classmates enjoyed long ago.

Bob initially told Sandi he had scheduled a "weekend getaway" for the two of them, keeping the actual purpose of that getaway a secret for months until finally letting her in on the details just days before the event.

"It was so sweet of him to do this. It was certainly quite a surprise," Sandi said.


Photo: - Sandi Schantz, Indiana State University nursing alumnus, in 1978

Photo: - Indiana State University graduate Sandi Schantz, who did not take part in her class' 1978 commencement, poses in her cap and gown prior to experiencing a graduation ceremony on May 5, 2012 (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Photo: - This photo of Sandi Schantz, Indiana State University nursing alumnus, is from the 1978 Sycamore yearbook

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