Wright State University President David R. Hopkins encouraged graduates to “serve others first, discover who you really are and find your true calling in life” during the university’s 83rd commencement ceremony April 30.
“You will always accomplish more when you put the needs of others first,” Hopkins said.
Before a packed Wright State Nutter Center audience, Hopkins told the graduating class of 2,045 students that commencement is just the tip of the iceberg of their lives as they begin the next great adventure in their lives.
“When I look out into this arena at today’s graduating class, I am so proud. I am so proud at each of you and what you have accomplished. It fills my heart with joy knowing that the best is yet to come,” he said.
Hopkins told graduates he has great hope that they will be the next generation of inspiring teachers, scientists, engineers, nurses and journalists.
“Hope that you will become engaged in our nation’s political process and restore dignity to democracy,” he added. “Hope that you will get involved in your communities and change them for the better. Hope that you will always be as proud of your alma mater as we are proud of you.”
He said his greatest hope is that they will use their gifts to serve others. “If you serve others before yourself, there is no limit to what you can do,” he said.
Hopkins also recapped the 2015-2016 academic year, which he called a “banner year in the history of Wright State University.”
The year included the announcement that Wright State will host the first presidential debate, on Sept. 26; senior Emily Bingham’s success on the “Jeopardy! College Championship”; the campus visit by Tom Hanks to dedicate the Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures; and author David McCullough teaching a master class on the Wright brothers.
Hopkins also praised Adrian McLemore and five other graduates in the Independent Scholars Network, a program for Wright State students who have been impacted by foster care.
“Like many of you,” Hopkins said, “Adrian knows and understands that the world is so much bigger than any one of us.”
About the class of 2016
Wright State’s spring class of 2016 includes 2,045 graduates, including 36 associate degrees, 1,281 bachelor’s degrees, 708 master’s and 30 doctoral degrees.
The class includes 1,943 graduates from 64 Ohio counties, including 1,387 from the 16 counties anchored by Wright State’s Dayton and Lake campuses. Graduates hail from 27 total states.
A majority of graduates, 1,095, are women. Graduating students range in age from 19 to 60.
The class includes 305 international students from 27 nations, with India boasting the largest number of foreign graduates with 173, followed by Saudi Arabia with 72.
Graduates by college:
- College of Education and Human Services: 316
- College of Engineering and Computer Science: 468
- College of Liberal Arts: 473
- College of Nursing and Health: 109
- College of Science and Mathematics: 322
- Raj Soin College of Business: 259
- Boonshoft School of Medicine: 22 (master’s degree only)
- School of Professional Psychology: 4
- Lake Campus: 87
Meet four graduating students who shined during their time at Wright State:
It’s been three months since she appear on “Jeopardy! College Championship” and thrilled the Wright State community, but Emily Bingham still gets recognized on and off campus.
“I knew people would be excited, but I didn’t think they’d be as excited to the level they were,” she said.
She described the experience as “one I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
But Bingham is more than the Wright State student who appeared on “Jeopardy.”
She was editor of The Fogdog Review literary magazine; director of campus culture in Student Government; operations chair for Raiderthon; secretary of the Dean’s Student Advisory Board in the College of Liberal Arts; and founded the university’s Quiz Bowl team. She also worked at Wright State’s Applied Policy Research Institute and served as a marketing intern with the Wright State Alumni Association.
She also traveled with the Alumni Association telling her story to potential donors and alumni as part of Rise. Shine. the Campaign for Wright State University. She received a valedictorian scholarship and Top Honors scholarship at Wright State.
Bingham got involved in so many activities because she wanted to make a difference on campus.
“I do feel that I left the impact and the legacy I wanted to leave through Student Government and all the other organizations I was involved with,” she said. “I’ve met a lot of different groups of people that I would not have met if I had I not been so involved.”
Searching the stars
Stephanie Lake, a duel physics and math major, decided to study physics because outer space has scared and fascinated her when she was young. “It made me feel really small and I didn’t understand it when I was a kid,” she said.
Lake grew up reading science fiction, watching science fiction movies and visiting planetariums.
She also pursued a physics degree to give her a background for one of her career goals: science fiction writer. “I wanted to put real science into books I would write in the future,” she said. “It’s always been my backburner dream.”
Lake describes herself as a military brat. Her father served in the Air Force and met her mother in Okinawa, Japan, where Lake was born. She’s also lived in Guam and the Azores and didn’t live in the United State until she was in high school when her father got a job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
At Wright State, Lake served on the Dean’s Circle in the College of Science and Mathematics and worked as a teaching assistant for calculus and physics labs and for physics courses for teachers. She received Paul Laurence Dunbar, Honors and Board of Trustees scholarships.
She’s also worked as a research assistant in the lab of Jason Deibel, associate physics professor. For her senior project, Lake used the lab’s software to simulate superconducting ring antennas for potential generation of terahertz radiation.
Lake plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics at The Ohio State University and would like to do research for industry or work in a national lab.
But Lake will miss Wright State. “I’ve really fallen in love with the campus,” she said. “It’s diverse so it reminds me of my military childhood.”
Advocating for students
Jessica Kelbley is passionate about helping students become successful. “I discovered I wanted to work with students and make their lives easier and help them transition from high school to college and college into the rest of the world,” she said.
Kelbley is graduating with a master of education in student affairs in higher education administration and a certificate in sports management. She received her B.S. in organizational leadership in 2014 from Wright State.
After graduation she wants to be an academic advisor and eventually a director of student support services.
“Helping students in time of crisis or time of need, to help them with whatever they’re going through, that’s what I want to do,” she said.
Her ultimate career goal is to be a university president.
Kelbley has been Community Council president in Hamilton Hall, an RA in Honors Community and head RA in Hamilton Hall. She was also a president’s ambassador, a peer mentor instructor in the First-Year seminar program and a tutor with the Office of Disability Services.
For the last two years, she’s been the Adapted Recreation graduate assistant, a job she pursued even though she did not participate in Adapted Recreation as an undergrad. “I wanted to take on a new challenge, something I didn’t know about,” she said. “I learned I love all aspects of recreation, what it does for people, and it’s lifetime importance.”
She’s also been recognized on campus with the Multicultural Affairs and Civic Engagement Student Advocate Diversity Award in 2015, the 2014 Division of Student Affairs Diversity Award, the 2013 Office of Disability Services George Vernooy Independence Prize and was named Ms. Wheelchair Ohio in 2013.
She interned with Wright State’s Athletic Department, several areas at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and with the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education.
Paying back a supportive community
Growing up was a rocky road for Adrian McLemore. He was in and out of foster care his entire life. And after being emancipated at age 18, he was left largely to navigate and survive in an unfamiliar and unforgiving world.
He spent two years raising his then-2-year-old nephew and 3-year-old niece. He also tutored students at Dunbar High School in Dayton and helped develop an innovative program at Wright State to nurture, educate and graduate emancipated foster students like himself.
Today, McLemore, who works at Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley, is preparing to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
“What has made Wright State so special is the unconditional support,” he said. “There was a time when I didn’t think I was going to finish.”
McLemore wants to go into politics, possibly starting out serving on local commissions and then working his way up.
“It’s a cliché to say you want to give back to the community,” he said, “but I want to pay back an entire community for raising a foster child since he was 15.”