Rhodes State graduates 20,000th student

LIMA — It was a special graduation ceremony for Rhodes State College Saturday as the college graduated its 20,000th student.

A total of 202 students walked in the ceremony following Tracie Sanchez’s commencement address.

“Go forth with courage and conviction,” the president of Lima Pallet Company said. “The world awaits your leadership and I have no doubt you will rise to the occasion.”

President Dr. Cynthia Spiers brought Presley Merz from Lima to the stage to recognize her as the 20,000th graduate.

“Presley is receiving an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science in nursing,” Spiers said. “We are proud of your accomplishments and are especially pleased to announce you are the 20,000th graduate of Rhodes State College.”

Spiers greeted the audience before the diploma presentation saying how rewarding it was to watch the students succeed.

“Graduates, we are proud that you chose Rhodes State College to be your educational provider,” she said. “And you should know our business and industry partners seek our graduates for the quality of education they receive here at Rhodes State.”

Spiers introduced Dr. Nicholas Pratt as the Outstanding Alumni Award recipient, who welcomed the graduates as fellow alums.

“I am from Lima, I was born here and I was raised here,” the current resident physician at the Yale Department of Psychiatry said. “I am proud of my hometown and I am most certainly the reason why Yale School of Medicine’s staff, faculty and students are disproportionately aware of Lima, Ohio in comparison to other Ivy League institutions.”

Pratt implored students to embrace their story.

“I suspect that many of you in the audience do not have access to trust funds,” he said. “I suspect that many of you did not participate in preparatory high schools or vacation in Europe and do not have a summer house in Cape Cod. I do suspect that many of you have made significant sacrifices to facilitate your education.”

He related his own struggle with imposter syndrome in this context and challenged students to use their knowledge to alleviate suffering.

“There is no greater privilege than to care for others,” he said. “Our communities are hurting. We are dealing with an opioid epidemic, violence, mental health crises, food deserts, strained infrastructure, agricultural challenges and environmental concerns. It is our duty to heal and grow together.”

Spiers recognized Richard Kortokrax, Warren Pughsley, Melissa States and Ezekial Wiechart as this year’s Alumni Circle of Excellence Inductees before introducing Sanchez, who said she was honored to give the commencement address.

“You represent the culmination of years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice,” she said. “But more than that, you represent the promise of a bright future.”

Sanchez shared lessons from her life and career to explain what leadership means.

“You are the next generation of leaders,” she said. “I urge you to embrace the values of leadership and service. Whether you choose to pursue a career in business, engineering, healthcare or any other field, remember that you have the power to make a difference.”

“Graduates, you now have in your hands a passport to the future,” Spiers said to close the ceremony. “Congratulations to you and your families on a job well done.”

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.