Graduates, their families celebrate achievement at PNW Westville's commencement

Graduates, their families celebrate achievement at PNW Westville's commencement

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WESTVILLE — Walking toward the Dworkin Student Services and Activities Complex at Purdue University Northwest, Tom Manning, of Valparaiso, said, “I’ve been waiting a long time for this day to come.”

Manning’s son was earning a degree in mechanical engineering from PNW. Robert J. Manning was among 271 participants in Monday’s commencement exercises.

The father of five, Tom Manning said his son took off a year from college, but when Robert Manning returned to school, he really hit the books.

“I know my son is going to be someone in life,” Tom Manning said. “He’ll be doing better than I did.”

Robert Manning and his classmates were among 1,091 individuals receiving undergraduate degrees and 179 earning master’s degrees. However, as PNW Chancellor Thomas L. Keon noted, pomp and circumstance are not reserved solely for graduates as parents and others helped pave the way for academic achievement.

Those family members included Tamara Monsibais, of Plymouth, whose daughter, Cristal, was earning a bachelor’s degree in science with a minor in Spanish.

“I’m very proud. She’s worked very hard,” the mother of three said, noting that her daughter becomes the first member of the family to earn a college degree and has applied for veterinary school.

Monsibais offered her daughter this advice: “Work hard, keep your mind on school and don’t get distracted.”

The Westville commencement, the last of four PNW graduation ceremonies, featured the awarding of degrees from the colleges of business, engineering and sciences, humanities, education and social sciences, nursing and technology.

Brandon Benson graduated with distinction in computer networking and information technology. As the Westville resident said, “All the hard work paid off. I learned in college to take one step at a time and try my best.”

While many graduates entered college right after high school, some students took a longer route. Jennifer Howard, of DeMotte, earned a degree in psychology more than two decades after graduating from Kankakee Valley High School. She has been accepted for clinical mental health counseling at Valparaiso University.

The mother of two grown children, Howard said, “This degree means everything. I definitely appreciate this more.”

Health studies graduate Kim Szymaszek, of Hebron, waited 13 years after graduating from Hobart High School to enter college.

“I’m glad it’s over. I did it,” Szymaszek said. “I didn’t know what I wanted when I was young. Now I know exactly what I want to do with my life.”

At age 45, Vicki Lynne Sizemore earned a degree in leadership. The LaPorte resident and factory worker said she wanted more from life. “Older students have a greater appreciation for college,” Sizemore said. “This is the proudest day of my life.”

Nursing graduate Lori Buell, of Michigan City, will change her cap and gown for a wedding dress May 19.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Buell, who graduated from the now-consolidated Rogers High School in Michigan City. “Today I feel accomplishment. I feel proud.”

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