Indiana State University Newsroom

Graduates encouraged to give back, reflect at 143rd commencement ceremony

May 5, 2014

The time came Saturday for Indiana State University's more than 1,700 graduates completing degrees this spring and summer to look beyond college.

If that thought left the graduates scared, excited, relieved or unsure, they were in good company with Sally Neville, a 1974 graduate of Indiana State's School of Nursing who returned to campus as the alumni commencement speaker and recalled her graduation day.

"Mostly, I was ready to get on with my life. I didn't know where it would take me, what I would do, what I would experience. I just knew that I wanted it to begin," said Neville, who serves as vice president of clinical specialty services at Kansas City Care Clinic, where she is responsible for HIV primary care, peer to peer treatment adherence and clinical trials.

Neville moved to Missouri following graduation and began her nursing career in Columbia and completed a Master of Science in nursing from the University of Missouri in 1987. She moved to Kansas City in 1990 and began work on an in-patient unit dedicated to AIDS patients, who have continued to be her life's passion, as she manages several federal grants which support HIV care at the clinic and regionally.

"I often say I've been a lucky have practiced nursing, a profession that has brought me incredible personal and professional satisfaction for 40 years and to have found my niche in that profession at the Kansas City Care Clinic for the last 22 years, where I have had the privilege to make a difference in the lives of people infected and affected by AIDS and HIV in Kansas City, in Missouri, in the region and nationally," she said.

Even with all of her success, Neville admitted to the more than 1,200 graduates and their estimated 6,000 family and friends who took part in the ceremony that she had "no grand plan" when she was sitting in their seats decades ago.

But the success that would lead Neville behind the podium at Indiana State's 143rd commencement four decades after she graduated was the result of three simple things: Being open, being present and being passionate.

"I can't say I've always been all those things, just ask the people who live with me, know me and work with me. But I can say the most meaningful and important moments of my life have been the result of being open, being present and/or being passionate," she said.

How does one be open? "Open yourselves to people, experiences, beliefs, ideas, and opinions unlike your own. Seek them out," Neville said. "When you do, you may be inspired, challenged, moved, motivated, angered, humored or touched, but I promise you, you will be changed. You will have a broader sense of who you are in this world and where you fit and what you can do. You will seek more options for what you can do and how you can make a difference."

How does one be present? "Engage in the moment and connect with those around you. Pay attention to what that moment is and what it means to you and to those around you," Neville said. "There's a saying that 50 percent of life is just showing up, and I think if you want a 50 percent life, you just show up. But if you want a full life and one with purpose and meaning, you show up, you pay attention, you embrace and you nurture the moment."

How does one be passionate? "Find the thing that grabs you and intentionally make the most of it," Neville said. "This can be in your work, with your family, your friends, in your church, in your neighborhood, in your community. Contribute to those venues. Don't just be a member. Give your time, your energy and your heart and you will make a difference."Making a difference doesn't have to mean with HIV and AIDS patients, Neville said.

"In whatever work you do in your personal live, in your neighborhood, in your community, every day you will have the opportunity to make a difference in someone's life in large and small ways and you can stand in awe of what folks have to carry with them, rather than stand in judgment of how they carry it," she said. "Be opened to that possibility, be present so you recognize that possibility, and be passionate so you take advantage of that possibility."

Before moving forward from Indiana State, graduates were also encouraged to reflect on their first moments at Indiana State by Tanika Lyles, an Indianapolis native who earned her bachelor's degree in sport management.

"Graduates, take a second to think back to your first experiences at ISU and realize how far you have come," Lyles said in her role as student commencement speaker. "What a journey. What a growth process it has been. We began here as small trees, as saplings, who have now grown to become full leafed trees-real sycamores."

As a Sycamore, Lyles was active in Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Donaghy Day and the Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport Club. For the past three years, she served as a student staff member in the Office of Residential Life. She also volunteered with Special Olympics-Indiana, the Indiana Sports Corp and the 2013 Adidas Invitational.

Lyles was inducted into Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, African-American Cultural Center High Academic Award and Outstanding Sports Management Junior Award. She studied abroad in Florence, Italy her junior year, is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and has appeared in a television commercial for Indiana State.

But Lyles reminded her fellow graduates that the journey of self-fulfillment and self-discovery that began years ago on Indiana State's campus doesn't end because they have their degrees.

"We are here today because ISU has provided the opportunity to understand who we are and what we are capable of accomplishing," said Lyles, who plans to serve an internship with You First Sports, an athlete representation and sports marketing firm in Madrid, Spain, after graduation and then attend law school with a goal of working as a sports agent. "We all possess the ability to do more than we ever thought that we could. You see, every one of us has had a dream, painted a picture in our minds of whom and what we want to be. Today, you have awakened from that dream to realize it is a reality."

Lyles told her fellow graduates it is time to continue the "profound respect for community service and civic engagement" expected of the ‘More to Blue' family, which is ranked number one in the country for community service.

"What are your plans for continuing your community involvement? How many lives will you impact? How many smiles will you put on strangers' faces? Will you pledge today to continue in the path of community service?" Lyles asked. "I know I do."

This year's graduating class at Indiana State was the largest in recent memory with more than 1,400 students completing undergraduate degrees and nearly 300 completing master's, doctoral and other advanced degrees.

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or

Photo: - Sally Neville

Photo: - Tanika Lyles