MERRILLVILLE | “It’s a great day because the world is waiting for you. Don’t listen to all the talking heads about how the nation’s best days are behind us.”
Jeffery Gardner, a 1983 Purdue University Calumet accounting graduate, expressed this optimism about the Class of 2013’s future during 65th commencement ceremonies Sunday at the Star Plaza Theatre.
Purdue Calumet’s spring graduation class totaled 943, with 232 master’s degree recipients, 687 baccalaureate degrees awarded and 24 earning associate degrees.
The president/CEO of Windstream Communications in Little Rock, Ark., Gardner praised the graduates’ “unique combination of a great education coupled with a work ethic that results from growing up in the region.”
“I came from a blue-collar family in Hammond. My parents showed me the value of hard work. No matter how smart or talented you are, success requires hard work,” said Gardner who helped transform Windstream Communications from a small rural failing phone company into the newest member of Fortune 500 and newly named to the S&P 500 with $6 billion in annual revenue.
He also offered advice on future success, how to stand out in business and take risks. In addition, Gardner said a recent poll indicated Purdue University and Harvard produce the most corporate CEOs.
“Think about what you’ll do in the first 100 days of your career,” Gardner said. “Create a sense of urgency. What can you do to make the organization not just better, but the best.”
That same sense of optimism and commitment to the future filled the student response address by Marissa Henderson, Purdue Calumet student government association president.
“Look around you. You are the faces of accomplishment, the faces of success,” Henderson told the 650 graduates who participated in the ceremony. “You are making history today because you are walking into your future.”
Purdue Calumet Chancellor Thomas L. Keon said the success of this class was, in part, due to the support of family and friends, many of whom were in the audience cheering on their graduates.
Purdue University President Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. attended the commencement. However, the state's former governor didn’t speak to the graduates although he was listed on the program to give greetings.
This class increased to more than 47,700 degrees granted at Purdue University Calumet.