Class of 2019 Graduates Hear Inspirational Words from Honorary Doctorate Recipients

Ferris State University
PHOTO CAPTIONS: Above and below are photos from Ferris State University commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 11 in Big Rapids. Commencement ceremonies, for the Spring 2019 semester, started on Friday, May 10.


Video Camera View the Spring 2019 Commencement Video Wrap Up.

Two days of celebrating graduates of Ferris State University’s Class of 2019 concluded on the Big Rapids campus Saturday, May 11. President David Eisler, Board of Trustees Chair Amna Seibold and three honorary doctorate recipients Teresa Weatherall Neal, Michael Shibler and alumnus Timothy Murphy shared inspirational words to graduates, the Alumni Association’s newest members.

Spring commencement ceremonies kicked off Friday, May 10 with a mid-afternoon session for the College of Health Professions and Michigan College of Optometry. Ferris State UniversityFriday’s late session was reserved for College of Arts and Sciences, College of Pharmacy, Doctorate in Community College Leadership and University College (Retention and Student Success) graduates. Commencement resumed Saturday morning with a ceremony for the College of Business prior to an early-afternoon celebration of College of Education and Human Services graduates before exercises concluded with a late-afternoon session to recognize College of Engineering Technology graduates.

More than 1,800 students, of the 2,000-plus who graduated, participated in commencement exercises May 10-11 in Big Rapids.

Amna Seibold, chair of Ferris’ Board of Trustees, welcomed the crowds to the ceremonies and offered words of inspiration to graduates, on behalf of the full board.

“Ferris State University is one of Michigan’s great public institutions of higher education. As someone who greatly values a college education, I’d like to share with you some wisdom about the value of your Ferris State University education. Your experiences, from your years here, will always be an important part of your history and an important part of your life story,” Seibold said. “Your Ferris education is an important part of your life. It’s opening doors and employment opportunities. And it will continue to be an important part of your future as Ferris State will provide important networking connections throughout the rest of your life because you will encounter Ferris alumni and friends wherever you go.”

This year’s honorary doctorate recipients are Timothy Murphy, the former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and current president of Thomson Reuters Special Services LLC; Michael Shibler, superintendent of Rockford Public Schools; and Teresa Weatherall Neal, superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools. Murphy, Shibler and Weatherall Neal were each awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Public Service. Weatherall Neal addressed graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Pharmacy, Doctorate in Community College Leadership and University College (Retention and Student Success) at Friday’s evening ceremony. Saturday morning, Shibler spoke to graduates of the College of Business. Murphy shared messages with the graduates of the College of Education and Human Services, during Saturday’s early-afternoon session.

Weatherall Neal acknowledged that the path to success is not always easy nor is it always unobstructed for graduates. She applauded the Class of 2019’s perseverance to endure and graduate with a Ferris degree.

“I want you to be proud of all of your accomplishments because, for many of you, the journey hasn’t been straight,” she said. “It wasn’t for me. I had many twists and turns and roadblocks and detours and so many other barriers – as some of you do, too. But you showed the grit, the tenacity, the hunger and you’ve been steadfast. You’ve achieved a milestone, a major milestone in your dream. I want you to make noise. Make noise wherever you go. Speak for those who don’t have a voice. Ask questions and, just when you think you’ve asked all the questions you need to ask, ask even more.”

Shibler, addressing College of Business graduates, spoke on themes of leadership.

“I made a promise to myself. It was more than a promise. It was a commitment that I would never, ever allow other people, society in general, to attack, challenge or diminish my potential to make a difference in the lives of others,” he said. “That promise, graduates, is still very clear in my mind, today. I personally made that choice to protect my idealism, to believe that all things are possible through hard work and perseverance. And, you know, that fits well for you, in your twenties or thirties, and that still fits well for me, at the age of 72.

“You have an incredible life before you,” he added. “I wish you the greatest opportunities and successes. I wish you the very best in life. Congratulations.”

Murphy, in his address to College of Education and Human Services graduates, shared three principles that can serve as guides to life and love success. 

“You’ve heard it from your parents, you’ve heard it from your professors, you’ve heard it from your coaches, and you know it deep down inside. Your success in life and in love will come down to three things: fidelity, bravery and integrity. For me, that’s more than that just the FBI’s motto. It is a true way of life,” he said. “First, be faithful to your commitments. Trust me. You will get caught up in the crazy currents of life. You’ll be tempted, at times, to let the most important things slide to the bottom of your list. Pause often. Evaluate your priorities and honor them. Second, bravery. Have the courage to choose the right thing over the easy thing in your workplace, in your communities, and in your relationships. Set the example of courageous leadership, no matter where you are and no matter what role you play in life.

“Finally, and most importantly: integrity,” he continued. “Integrity is more than adhering to a set of values. It literally means whole, undivided, incorruptible. Your integrity is your greatest asset.”

Eisler urged Class of 2019 graduates to be prideful of their accomplishments and acknowledge people who have supported them en route to earning a Ferris degree.

“As you celebrate this achievement, take time to thank those who have worked, helped and supported you. Their sacrifice and love have helped create this moment for you,” Eisler said. “Graduates, on behalf of our university, I wish you great success and fulfillment as you begin the next stage of your journey.”

More Spring 2019 Commencement Coverage

Honorary Doctorate Recipient Features:

Timothy Murphy

Michael Shibler

Teresa Weatherall Neal

Outstanding Graduate Features:

Madison Baker

Trishia Blackwell

Reggie Bell

Jonathan Day

Bre Frasher

Erin Gogolin

Nachelle Marshall

DeShaun Thrower