Indiana State University Newsroom

Gibson CEO to speak at commencement on May 7

April 29, 2016

When Tim Leman was a student at Indiana State University, he never envisioned he'd return as the university's featured commencement speaker.

"Not a chance!" he said. "In fact, I just hope the attendees stay awake for (my speech)."

Indiana State will conduct two commencement ceremonies on May 7 in Hulman Center.

The College of Arts and Sciences and Bayh College of Education will begin with a processional at 9:45 a.m., followed by the ceremony at 10 a.m. The Scott College of Business, College of Health and Human Services and College of Technology will begin with a processional at 1:45 p.m., followed by the ceremony at 2 p.m. No tickets are required for either ceremony.

For his part, Leman plans to talk about "being unconditional" in his message to graduates. "It has to do with not setting limits for yourself," he said. "We all have a tendency to place glass ceilings on what we're doing. Being unconditional is about not having any limits - not just better or higher ones."

Leman definitely knows from experience how important it is to live unconditionally. Born in Fort Wayne, Leman aimed high even as a youngster. "In fifth grade, I wrote a story that culminated in me becoming president. Of the United States."

Originally deciding to break with family tradition (both his father and older brother had attended Indiana State), Leman wanted "to do my own thing" and go to Indiana University instead. However, an academic scholarship from State made Leman change his mind.

"My dad had promised to pay for a four-year state college education," Leman recalled. "He had a deal with me that any scholarships I got, he would refund half the value back to me in cash since it meant his commitment was reduced, too ... I decided that ‘revenue share' with Dad was a pretty good idea."

Once he became a Sycamore, Leman knew he had made the right choice. He enjoyed being active in campus organizations and getting to know fellow students and faculty.

"I liked that I knew everyone. ISU is small enough that you can have a personal relationship with your professor, with the dean of your college and with many, many students," he said. "I got to know lots of the other fraternity guys and sorority girls."

Some of his campus activities included Lambda Chi Alpha (social fraternity treasurer), Gamma Iota Sigma (business fraternity president), Alpha Omicron Pi (social sorority "Sweetheart Guy"), intramurals, math lab tutor and much more. "I got to be involved and active on campus," he said. "I feel like I got the full college experience."

His first Indiana State mentor, Leman said, was Larry Coleman. "He helped start the insurance and risk management program. He really helped me mature and focus. He's still a mentor and still sends me encouraging letters."

Leman said he has fond memories of other State professors and values their help and friendship. "My insurance professors - Dr. Mikolaj and Dr. Warfel. I also really enjoyed my relationship with the McLarens - Bruce and Connie. In particular, I've probably gotten to know Bruce even better since graduation through my work on the dean's executive council."

Graduating magna cum laude in May 1997 with a Bachelor's of Science in insurance and risk management from the Scott College of Business, Leman entered the insurance brokerage business.

It was through an industry advisory council in the Scott College of Business while he was living in Arizona that Leman met Dave Gibson. "His father founded Gibson (insurance)," Leman said. "He talked me into moving back to Indiana. Dave's a pretty good salesman."

Family owned for the first half of its existence, Gibson is today 100 percent owned by company employees. Now chairman and CEO of Gibson, Leman makes it a point to hire Indiana State graduates.

"We have 15 now, and No. 16 starts in June," he said. "We've experienced tremendous growth and can't find enough experienced people, so we've focused on hiring directly out of college and training them... That's where ISU comes in. The IRM grads are fantastic: smart, energetic and hard workers."

In fact, Leman says, he would recommend Indiana State to prospective students. "If they're looking for a hands-on education with internships and relationships with professors, it's a great place."

Other Indiana State commencement speakers include Ishaiah Williams, a health science major from Evansville and Mariah Wright, a construction management major from Clinton.

The afternoon commencement speaker, Williams was entrenched in campus life, serving as the president of the Applied Health Science Committee, treasurer of Promoting Health Across Campus Together, Community Service chair of Trendsetters, resident assistant, a member of Hines hall Council and the National Society of Leadership and Success. She was on the dean's list, named a Richard Landini Outstanding Junior, African American Cultural Center Academic Achievement Award, Best Mid-Year Hire for Residential Life. She earned several scholarships - Richard Lugar Nominee Scholarship, Fifth Third Bank Scholarship and the Academic Merit Scholarship. Within the Terre Haute community, she served in the Mollie R. Wheat Memorial Clinic, Union Hospital student ambassador and in a church daycare. Upon graduation and completing her internship, Ishaiah plans to return to her hometown of Evansville to pursue a Master's of Public Administration at University of Southern Indiana with the ultimate goal of working in an adoption agency to improve mental health policies for children.

Wright, who will speak at the morning commencement ceremony, landed an internship with Thompson Thrift her freshman year and helped plan, hire contractors and oversee the construction of the $22.7 million student housing project at 500 Wabash Ave. Fittingly, she now calls that address home.

"Every time I'm walking somebody up to my apartment, I'm like, ‘Oh, I built this,'" Wright said with a laugh. "It's an experience that not many people get. It's pretty amazing. It's always something I bring up in job interviews. Everyone's like, ‘Really?' I got really lucky. Things just lined up."

With the Wabash Avenue project complete, Wright spent her next to last semester at State balancing an eye-popping 24 credit hours and commuting to Indianapolis for a full-time internship with Pepper Construction. She helped the company with their biggest project at the time at Community East Hospital.

"It's insane," she admitted, "all in between trying to fit in job interviews and stuff like that."Another quality that makes Wright stand out is her Spanish language fluency - a skill she further perfected during a study abroad experience at Veritas University in Costa Rica. About half of the workers at the Thompson Thrift job site did not speak English, she said. Further south, that ratio can be 80 percent or more.

"The language barriers on construction sites can cause problems down the line, so it's an amazing skill to have. When you have someone there who can help out, it definitely changes things," she said.

After graduation, Wright plans to move to Houston, where she has accepted a position with Hunt Construction Group - An AECOM Company.

"A lot of it is thanks to my professors for just being willing to go out of their way, like helping students, even after hours - just putting your name out there to all these different companies," she said. "Indiana State has such a great program that companies want to come out and they want to receive the resumes of the students. Opportunities come because of that."


Photos: -- Tim Leman -- Ishaiah Williams -- Mariah Wright

Media Contact: Libby Roerig, director of communications, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or