By JEROD CLAPP
NEW ALBANY —
Traditional or not, they packed a gymnasium twice so everyone could witness their milestone.
Indiana University Southeast graduated 1,128 at its commencement Monday. Almost 60 percent of those students were classified as nontraditional, or 25 years old or older. This year’s graduates ranged from 19 to 67 years old, but friends and family cheered them on regardless of age, obstacles or time spent earning their degree.
Patricia Martin said she was there to watch her daughter, Alycia Wright, walk across the stage to get her degree. She said at 27 years old and taking a second go at her college education, she was proud of the work her daughter completed.
“It’s really a good testament to her because she was attending Kentucky State University, but she had a child and had to quit,” Martin said. “But she came up here and finished her degree, so I’m really proud of her for sticking to it.”
Martin said she’s glad her daughter chose to attend her alma mater to finish her bachelor’s degree. Wright already has a job teaching with Jefferson County Public Schools.
Christopher Belcher-Cole, a 27-year-old graduate, said he’s the first college degree recipient in his family by six days. His sister graduates from Bellarmine University on Saturday. Even though he said he’s got that to rub in a little, he’s appreciative of the support he got from her and the rest of his family.
“I wouldn’t be here without them,” Belcher-Cole said. “I want to thank all of them for their faith in me, dealing with my struggles and helping me financially.”
Joe Wooten said he was there to see a friend receive a degree that was 46 years in the making. Paul Schuster, 63, earned his bachelor’s after starting it at the University of Kentucky in 1967.
Wooten said three years ago, Schuster came to IU Southeast to finish what he’d started, even after almost giving up on his college education.
“This was a phase that he thought had passed him by,” Wooten said. “He’s had a very interesting life. This is another great milestone for him and I can’t wait to see what he does next.”
Wooten said Schuster earned his degree before his son, but only by a year.
In her speech at commencement, chancellor Sandra Patterson-Randles said she felt bittersweet since this ceremony would be her last as the university’s top administrator. But she said she was glad to see so many students complete their undergraduate education.
“We have fulfilled our campus mission beautifully and we are actualizing our vision ...,” Patterson-Randles said. “You, the members of the class of 2013 are living proof of our success.”