Unstoppable: Trine Commencements encourage growth, celebrate resilience

May 07, 2024

Beginning a new tradition, Trine University celebrated the accomplishments of one of the most unique undergraduate classes in history as well as its many graduate students.

The university hosted two spring Commencement ceremonies for the first time on Saturday, May 4.

Graduates from undergraduate programs and the Brooks College of Health Professions received their degrees in the morning ceremony, while the afternoon celebrated graduate students in the university’s online and hybrid programs.

More than 8,000 people attended the two ceremonies, cheering on more than 1,200 graduates who crossed the stage in the Keith E. Busse/Steel Dynamics Inc. Athletic and Recreation Center.

Well-deserved ceremony

Welcoming students and families to the morning ceremony, John Shannon, Ph.D., Trine University president, recalled that many of the undergraduate students present were unable to participate in a traditional high school graduation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Let this celebration bring you great happiness. You deserve it,” he told the graduates.

Shannon encouraged the graduates to take satisfaction in their accomplishments, but also to savor good times, relationships and their outstanding education at Trine.

“Never forget the small moments, the quiet moments, of a walk into town and the beautiful fall day,” he said. “All of these moments are what come together to make your college experience uniquely yours.”

Promising “high speed and low drag,” PGA professional and fighter pilot Lt. Col. Dan Rooney presented a very impactful Commencement address, encouraging students to remain true to themselves.

“Passion, aptitude, impact. Do you love it? Are you good at it? Does it make a difference? That is the trinity of life,” said Rooney, who heads Folds of Honor, an organization providing scholarships to families of fallen or disabled veterans and first responders. “If you can identify those three things, you will live a full life. It will guide you to where you're supposed to be.”

He also shared four lessons from his fighter pilot training: don’t face challenges alone; be prepared to face challenges; don’t let others discourage you from following your dreams; and recognize challenges as opportunities for growth.

“Just remember, you take off into the wind, and you will face resistance and challenge,” he concluded, “but understand that God does not put that in your life to keep you down. He puts it in your life to raise you up.”

The university presented Rooney an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, then presented degrees to the graduates in attendance.


Following a welcome to the new graduates from the Trine University Alumni Association, Christopher Ferguson, winner of the R.B. Stewart Award, given to the top graduating senior, offered a response from the Class of 2024.

Ferguson, a software and computer engineering major from Defiance, Ohio, recalled losing the track season of his senior year of high school to the pandemic and celebrating his high school graduation inside a car in a parking lot.

“Thanks to the tireless around-the-clock work of the Trine faculty, staff and administration, we were able to come to Trine our freshman year. Many of our former friends and classmates who attended other institutions didn't even get to go away to college their first year,” he said.

Noting the athletic and academic accomplishments at the university since the fall of 2020, Ferguson encouraged his fellow graduates to continue forming connections, as they had at Trine, in order to succeed.

“Many big opportunities lie ahead,” he concluded. “After all, if the pandemic cannot stop us, what can?”

Accept, adapt, focus, commit

Providing the keynote address for the afternoon ceremony, Vipul Shah, a 1996 chemical engineering alumnus who is now a highly regarded wealth advisor, shared three principles for personal and professional success.

The first, he said, is to accept and adapt.

“When you get on an ascent, each peak you climb will allow you to see other mountaintops that are well within your reach,” he said. “Adapt to the environment on each mountaintop.”

Second, he said, is to focus and be productive.

“You have no idea what lies in front of you, but it is your ability to focus in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles that will define your journey,” he said.

Third, he said: Commit and make a positive difference.

“We all want to be successful. Are you willing to commit the time, effort and energy it takes to get there?” he asked.

In closing, he said, “Go out and win with confidence. Be humble and have fun along the way.”

After Shah was presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, Sanjana Nandadeep Surve, a Master of Science in business analytics graduate and Outstanding Graduate Student for the Class of 2024, presented the response from the class.

“Success isn’t just about hoping for the best. It’s about working hard, preparing for opportunities and never giving up, even when things seem impossible,” she said. “As we venture into the world, let us keep in mind the importance of determination and hard work in pursuing our dreams.”

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