By Ryan Richardson
JOPLIN, Mo. —
After a marriage proposal, a pair of brothers overcoming cystic fibrosis and two ceremonies, Saturday’s spring commencement at Missouri Southern State University opened the next chapter in the lives of 615 graduates.
Saturday marked the 60th commencement ceremony for the school as family members, students and faculty packed the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center for both ceremonies for the spring and summer graduates. During her commencement speech, Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean, herself an MSSU graduate, encouraged the students to take pride in the university as new alumni.
“You get to carry Lion pride with you for the rest of your lives,” Colbert-Kean said. “You are the epitome of ‘Be a Leader, Be a Lion.’ This is now your university. Now that you are alumni, you are home.”
For brothers Curtis and Tim Almeter, their moment of pride came after living in the shadow of the debilitating lung disorder cystic fibrosis. Curtis underwent a double-lung transplant in December 2009, while Tim dealt with hospital stays that resulted in 55 absences last semester. Both brothers crossed the stage Saturday to receive their degrees.
“If you have difficulties, it makes any accomplishment that much greater,” Curtis Almeter said. “I feel fortunate that I got the transplant and I survived the placement. Today was the next step in several goals I have in life.”
Curtis, 29, completed a degree in mass communications and will work as a photographer for the school in the university relations department. Tim graduated with a bachelor’s degree in management-human resources.
“Graduating is a big accomplishment for anyone, and I’ve had my struggles,” Tim Almeter said. “My professors worked through it with me, and I was able to get this done.”
Michael Ori decided to not wait for graduation before starting the next chapter in his life. As he neared the stage, the sociology major turned to his girlfriend, Emily Bultman, with a poster asking her to marry him. The senior was met with one of the biggest ovations of the day after she said “yes.”
“She completes me and this was the best stage to do it at,” Ori said. “If today is the start of the rest of my life, I want to spend it with her.”
Saturday’s commencement was also a turning point for many parents of graduates. Like hundreds of other graduates, Courtney Bennett, of Nevada, met her father, Derrek Bennett, outside to share the occasion.
“I’m proud of her, but it is bittersweet,” Bennett said. “This is different than a high school graduation. As a parent, you know they are really starting the rest of their lives today.”
The school also honored three faculty members for outstanding work during the school year. David Smith and Ree Wells-Lewis were named “Outstanding Teacher,” and Anthony Adamopoulos was named “Outstanding Faculty Adviser.” During the award presentation, MSSU President Bruce Speck said that current students and alumni nominate the recipients.
“These people are the faculty that challenge students and inspire them to do more,” Speck said. “They have such a strong impact on the lives of so many students that come through our school.”
Pittsburg State University
Pittsburg State University held four commencement ceremonies over Friday and Saturday for 1,134 students in the undergraduate and graduate programs. This year’s ceremony marked the first time that the College of Arts and Sciences, the school’s biggest, was split into two sections.