Commencement celebrates resilience of 2020, 2021 graduates

Capping off an unprecedented year in Trine University history, Commencement honored the resilience of graduates whose flexibility and tenacity helped the university complete the entire school year in person.

“You all learned what you needed to prepare for success in your chosen field of study, but through this pandemic, you also learned something that you probably didn’t expect to discover when you arrived on this campus four or five years ago: You learned just how tough you are,” university President Earl D. Brooks II said in welcoming the Classes of 2020 and 2021.

“They say adversity does not build character, but rather reveals it. I believe what we learned about this class, what we all learned, is that this class has the character of a champion.”

More than 630 graduates participated in the event. To maintain health and safety, about 3,000 total attended in person in the Keith E. Busse/Steel Dynamics Inc. Athletic and Recreation Center, with more than 4,700 unique online viewers joining through the Trine Broadcasting Network.

In his Commencement address, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he had looked forward to the event, saying, “Trine represents the best of Indiana itself.”

Highlighting many milestones achieved this past year, Holcomb praised the university’s innovation.

“Over the now decades, you’ve thought big and beyond, you’ve expanded, and you’ve responded to the changing needs of an ever-changing market,” he said.

Citing Trine’s mission statement, he also lauded the values the university imparts to graduates.

“The degree, the proof that you receive today, is testimony not just to your years of hard work what you have earned, but to your appreciation that success means both to lead and serve,” he told the graduating seniors.

Adding his own praise for their resilience, Holcomb offered two pieces of advice. First, he said, “Always take Trine with you.”

“Never lose sight of the values you have learned here,” he said. “This combination you have learned here and experienced over these past four or however many years not only will help you navigate your journey ahead in this complex world of ours, they are the foundations of our nation’s potential and greatness.”

His second piece of advice, he said, was also an ask: “Give Indiana a strong consideration. You are the secret ingredient to Indiana’s future. We want to be partnered with you.”

“You’re the graduating entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers, the leaders who are going to make lives better,” he said. “We need you. All of you.”

Concluding with congratulations for the graduates, Holcomb said, “Thank you for the honor of being with you on this day, a day I will never forget, and to be able to speak with you on this incredible, incredible milestone in your life.”

Following the address, the university presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Mike Packnett, chief executive officer of Parkview Health. In presenting the honor, Brooks said Trine has benefited greatly from Packnett’s leadership, as well as the leadership of Rick Henvey, president of healthcare operations for Parkview Health and a member of the Trine University Board of Trustees.

“We are so thankful and appreciative of Mr. Packnett’s friendship and the leadership and generosity of our collaborative partner, Parkview Health,” Brooks said.

Following the presentation of degrees and the induction of graduates into the Trine University Alumni Association, Alex Pessell, Robert B. Stewart Award winner for 2021, presented a response from the graduating classes. Pessell focused his remarks on what he called three “simple but powerful” words:

  • Time: “Life is fragile and we must take advantage of the finite time we have on earth. Each day we should strive to find new passions in life, work diligently toward our goals and leave a positive impact on others.”
  • “We should challenge ourselves to explore new opportunities and continue to learn and prosper as individuals. People and interests change, but we should not be afraid to pursue things that make us intrinsically happy.”
  • Opportunity: “Without talking calculated risks and maximizing available opportunities, we become complacent. I challenge each of us to dream big, think boldly and extend ourselves outside of our comfort zones. By stretching ourselves and believing in our ideas, we will have no basis for regrets in our lives.”

In closing, Brooks told graduates that since they have achieved one set of goals, it’s time to reach for another.

“Your family and friends have joined you today because they’ve given much of themselves to see you reach this pinnacle in your life,” he said. “Remember them, and then strive to do the same for others.”

(Photos by Dean Orewiler)

  • Gov. Holcomb

    Gov. Holcomb - Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb gestures as he delivers the address at Trine University's Commencement.

  • Pessell

    Pessell - Alex Pessell, Robert B. Stewart Award winner for the Class of 2021, presents a response from the Classes of 2020 and 2021 during Commencement.

  • Packnett

    Packnett - Mike Packnett, chief executive officer of Parkview Health, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Trine University during Commencement.

  • Yancy

    Yancy - Yancy Hansford Bejarano of Honduras receives her degree from Mitchel Rhoads, a member of the Trine University Board of Trustees. Bejarano graduated with a bachelor's degree in management and master's degrees in business administration and business analytics.

  • Jasper

    Jasper - Alex Jasper receives his Bachelor of Science in software engineering degree from Trine University President Earl D. Brooks II.

  • Graduates

    Graduates - Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks to Trine graduates during the Commencement ceremony.