ANDERSON — Donning caps and gowns, 432 Anderson University students walked across a stage Saturday and stepped into the next season of their lives.
The Ward Fieldhouse in the Kardatzke Wellness Center, which held AU's 101st commencement ceremony, was packed. Families and friends of the graduates cheered when their loved ones received their hard-earned diplomas.
Gov. Eric Holcomb gave the commencement address. He spoke on the history of Indiana, and the impact that AU has had on it over the past century.
"When I think about just how far Indiana as a state has come in the last century, a lot of who we are, what we are, as a growing state, is because of this university," he said. "The previous generations kept this special place always in forward motion."
Taking a chapter from old Uncle Sam posters, Holcomb told the students that Indiana needs them. He asked them for four favors: He asked them to stay in Indiana, to pursue a career they are passionate about, to meet someone and fall in love, and finally, to fail.
"Fail," he said. "Not permanently fail, but fail while pushing it to the max. Fail fast, and get back up."
Holcomb told a story about AU alumnus and Major League baseball player Carl Erskine. He talked about Erskine setting a World Series record with 14 strikeouts in one game. But Erskine's first inning in the World Series ended so miserably, Holcomb said, that he stayed in the dugout during the second inning.
"I want you to think about the grit, the guts and the determination it took for him to wind up standing on that pitch to get to the World Series," he said. "If you aren't failing, or willing to, chances are you aren't willing to break new ground."
Holcomb finished his speech by reiterating the four favors, and told the Ravens what he wanted to stick with them the most: creating a positive impact on the world.
"You are intellectual and intelligent, strong and centered, meaningful and determined," Holcomb said. "You are difference makers. Go out and let your power be a force for good."
After the ceremony, students gathered outside in the rain, taking pictures with their families and joking with their peers. Paige Yoder, graduating with a bachelor's a degree in nursing, stood in a hallway surrounded by friends, holding flowers.
"I'm very excited to move forward," she said. "Today has been a little unreal. " Yoder will go on to work at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital in the ICU cardiac unit, she said.
Melada Morgan graduated with a bachelor of science in general studies with dance complimentary, a study in dance performance.
"I feel like this is completely surreal," she said. "All of my family is here for me. I'm really excited for the future and I love AU. It changed me. I'll miss it a lot."
Follow Laura Arwood on Twitter @lauraarwood or call 765-648-4284.
AU's 2019 Commencement
Total degrees: 432
School of Theology: 8
Graduate school: 79
• Gov. Eric Holcomb
• Dr. Elizabeth Tharp
• Robert Blume