Indiana State University Newsroom

Mid-year grads urged to "be bold," stay true to their dreams

December 13, 2015

One of their own encouraged Indiana State University's December graduates to pursue their dreams no matter what while a graduate who holds a key position in aviation called on them to "be bold."

About 500 of nearly 900 graduates eligible to participate came out on a spring like day for Saturday's winter commencement at Hulman Center and they were treated to send-offs as inspiring as the 70-degree weather.

Part of Martha Reed's journey toward a college degree began in 1986 when, as a university custodian, her duties included cleaning the president's office. She feared she was in trouble when then President Richard Landini discovered her during a break reading some of his books by the likes of Tolkien and Tolstoy. Instead, Indiana State's eighth president encouraged her "to get back to school as often as I could," Reed said.

"The day I left to go to a new job, President Landini asked me to give him my cleaning towel," she said. "He told me I wouldn't need it any longer and he handed me a box. Inside it was a brief case. Dr. Landini told me this is what I would need to carry from that point forward."

That brief case "serves as a reminder that others believed in me long before I believed in myself," she said. "It reminds me never to give up striving for my education and a better life."

Twelve more years passed before Reed finally resumed her studies after what she called an encouraging speech to university staff members by current President Dan Bradley.

"He told us not to be afraid to seek an education, no matter where you are in life," she said. "Those words resonated with me and renewed my commitment to finishing my degree."

Reed graduated with a bachelor's degree in adult and career education, a program launched in 2010 to help non-traditional students complete a four-year degree via credit for some life and work experiences and a customized course of study. She also holds a minor in psychology and plans to continue her education and complete a master's degree in student affairs and higher education. For nearly 20 years, the Dana resident has served staff members in the university's Career Center.

"No matter how long or short your educational journey, let this life changing experience be a reminder that you can achieve anything in the future," she said. "Never let anyone or anything stop you from pursuing your dreams. Instill that hope in others, as well."

Reed called on her fellow graduates to inspire by example - "Be someone worth emulating," she said - continue to be selfless as they have as students in following Indiana State's commitment to service, and to "realize that failures are life lessons in disguise."

Alumni speaker Cheryl Roberson may have followed a traditional education path but her road to career success was anything but.

The 1990 graduate is program director with the defense sector of Rolls-Royce, the world's second largest aircraft engine manufacturer. She is one of the few non-engineers and among the very women who have risen to senior management in the industry.

Despite earning a bachelor's degree in management, Roberson took a job as a secretary with Rolls-Royce upon her graduation from Indiana State. Four years later, after overhearing her boss telling a male employee "even she" could probably do his job better, she boldly strode into her supervisor's office and informed him she thought she could probably do the job better.

"My boss, a crotchety, older, and frankly scary man, just smiled at me. And he gave me a chance," she said.

Ten years later she was working as a group leader in a team supporting three managers when one of the managers fell ill and wasn't able to return to work. Time for another bold move. She pitched herself to the senior manager and was named acting program manager.

"I didn't get an increase in salary," she said. "Here's what I did get: I got a lot more work, had to work a lot more hours and took on a lot more stress. But most importantly, I got a lot of great experience. ‘so while I didn't get an immediate promotion, I truly believe it was this temporary role that put me on the path that made it possible for me to secure the senior management positon I hold today."

"It's OK to have a rough start; success can still be yours," Roberson told Indiana State graduates. She urged them to keep their eyes open for opportunities, have the courage to pursue those opportunities, be determined and never give up.

But the most important takeaway from Roberson's seven-minute mini biography?

"You can say it with me if you want," she said. "Be bold!"

Bradley told graduates he continues to be impressed with all that Indiana State's students accomplish. He urged them to stay connected to the university by joining the Alumni Association, return for Homecoming and other annual events and "look for opportunities to help Indiana State students through mentoring, internships and employment, but most importantly nurture and grow the personal relationships that you have formed with fellow students, faculty and staff. I challenge you to continue learning throughout your lifetime."

In honor of the university's sesquicentennial era, Bradley read from an entry in the 1914 "Normal Advance," saying the words are as relevant today as when they were written.

"Slowly but surely as the close of another year approaches, spending many days of joy as well as trial and tribulation into the inevitable past, nearer and nearer to the close of our college career we are tearing and though we have enjoyed these days we would not if we could have them return again. We are anxious to go into the future, to solve new problems, to meet new difficulties, to show to the world our true worth and heritage."

This year's mid-year graduating class has about 100 more students than last year and is among the largest in university history. More than 600 bachelor's degrees, more than 200 master's degrees, more than 40 doctoral degrees and three educational specialist degrees were awarded.

Philanthropist Gayle Cook received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in recogniton of her work in historic preservation, including advising on the recent restoration of Indiana State's Normal Hall, the original university library and the oldest remaining academic building on campus.

Photo: - Abulrahman Alsomali, who completed a master’s degree in electronics and computer technology, takes a selfie with Indiana State University President Dan Bradley during winter commencement Dec. 12, 2015. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

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