MERRILLVILLE | Relating his personal story of having been an “undisciplined” high school student who enlisted in the Navy, went on to graduate from Purdue University Calumet and become a lawyer and public servant, Hammond Mayor Thomas M. McDermott, Jr. told more than 400 Purdue University Calumet graduates Tuesday afternoon “this university ... changed my life for the better.”
McDermott offered the graduation address during Purdue Calumet’s Fall Commencement Exercises at the Radisson Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville. The graduation ceremony recognized a class of 738 fall graduates who earned 190 master’s degrees, 517 baccalaureate degrees and 31 associate degrees. Some summer graduates also participated.
After introductory remarks by Purdue Calumet Chancellor Thomas L. Keon, McDermott recounted how his six years of Navy duty motivated him to go to college. Following his discharge he enrolled in night classes at Purdue Calumet while juggling family and job responsibilities.
“I attacked college ... loved every minute of it ... loved the professors ... loved taking classes I wanted to take,” he said. After graduating in 1996, he said determination drove him to attend and graduate from law school, begin a law practice, run for Hammond’s mayoral office and even return to his alma mater to teach as an adjunct faculty member.
“(Purdue Calumet) equipped me with the education I would need to graduate from one of the toughest law schools in the country,” he said. “(Purdue Calumet) also gave me the confidence to ... start my own business ... run for public office and win ... I can honestly say I would not be where I am today were it not for Purdue Calumet.”
McDermott’s address continues a practice introduced by Keon to invite Purdue Calumet alumni to speak at university Commencement Exercises.
Offering the traditional response on behalf of the graduating class, Purdue Calumet Student Government President Marissa Henderson said, “No matter what careers we pursue, having a college education exposes us to a world of possibilities, and it prepares us for the bright future to come.”
Those graduating with the top grade point average from each of Purdue Calumet’s six academic schools received a Chancellor Medallion. Honors students and other distinguished baccalaureate and associate degree graduates also were recognized.
This December class increases to nearly 47,500 the number of degrees awarded at Purdue Calumet.