Chattanooga State Commencement was held on Saturday, May 9 at the Memorial Auditorium. The Class of 2015 is represented by 20 countries with a total of 403 students receiving honors. Our oldest graduate is 68 years old receiving an AAS in Human Services Specialist and our youngest graduate is 16 years old receiving an Associate of Science. Females represent 58% of our graduates and 42% are males. We have 56 students graduating from Hamilton County Collegiate High at Chattanooga State with 28 of these receiving an Associate degree at the same time.
Read, and be inspired by, the full commencement speech by Emily McElroy, Class of 2015 Student Government Association President:
I stand before you as President of the Student Government, graduating Summa Cum Laude, and with a lot of other titles I don’t really want to bore you with. The point is, when I tell people now that I’m a high school drop out, they laugh. They think I’m joking. My high school experience was less than ideal. Like most high schoolers I knew, I was extremely emotional, and I chose to mask my enormous fear of failure and self doubt with a bad attitude and dedication to procrastination that rivals anyone I have seen to date. I couldn’t wait to take my GED just to be done with high school and I was so sure that I would NEVER want to go to college because, how different could it be really? I got my GED and got out of high school, my GPA was a whopping 1.8 and I plunged headlong into the workforce. I couldn’t wait to make money and live my life my way! But after a few years, I realized that what I actually wanted couldn’t be found as an artist or cake decorator. I realized that the job I really wanted required a degree. That’s how I found myself going to Chatt State.
I know my story is not unique. I know we all have similar stories of choosing different paths, of mistakes, of personal triumphs the kind of which never get made into a disney movie; but we are here. We made a choice to choose a different path for ourselves, to choose the life that we want, to choose to put in the grit, and pain, and hard work of getting our degrees. We’ve all heard the typical first day speech from the professor, “College is a full time job. Treat it like a job.” True as that is, for more of us than is widely acknowledged it was a second, third, or even forth job. But we stuck to it, all the way to the end.
Of course I’m grateful for the amazing opportunity to go back to school after so many years and make my career goals a reality. More than that, I am immensely grateful to the dedication of the faculty and staff of Chatt State. Most of us have at least one professor that we truly got to connect with, who encouraged us and pushed us and demanded more of us than we thought ourselves possible of achieving. That is no common thing on a freshman and sophomore level, even at four year universities. The small classes, one on one time, and open office hours of professors is something reserved for upperclassmen and honors students only, at most schools. Yet everyone of us was given that level of attention, and it shapes the way we carry ourselves out into the world today.
A few months ago I was able to go with a couple of fellow students to Denver for a chemistry conference. One of the highlights of the whole trip for me was the meet-and-greet set up for students and older, more prominent members of the chemistry community. One of the gentleman I got to talk to at length was Dr. Harry Gray, a world renowned chemist, and professor at Cal Tech, winner of several awards including the Wolf Prize of Chemistry. That was the highlight because once he found out I was from a community college he got excited. His energy level went through the roof. “I LOVE community college students!” he said. “They are always the MOST dedicated, the MOST passionate, the MOST attentive students! You should be SO proud to go to a community college!” he said. And I am proud. He understands what I have come to understand, we have been given the blessings of life experience. We are already a cut above because we choose to be here, to graduate with this degree.
Whatever is next in your lives; a new career, a promotion in an old career, or transfer to a university, be proud of your choices. Those choices brought you here today and that is great. In this moment, you have achieved greatness for taking control of your life and your path.
Teddy Roosevelt once said,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
We have all known defeat, and today we know victory! Congratulations class of 2015!
Emily is pictured above with her husband, Aaron Lindorfer, also a new Chatt State graduate. Congratulations to Emily, Aaron, and all of the graduates of the Class of 2015. We welcome you to our Alumni family!
The entire video for commencement is below: