Honorary Doctorate Recipients Offer Motivational Messages to 1,900 in the Class of 2018

Ferris State University
PHOTO CAPTION: Ferris State University celebrated commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2018 over a two-day period, May 4-5, on main campus in Big Rapids. The ceremonies were hosted in Jim Wink Arena.


Ferris State University’s Class of 2018, over a two-day period in Big Rapids, heard inspirational messages shared by President David Eisler and three recipients of honorary doctorate degrees at ceremonies on Friday, May 4 and Saturday, May 5.

Spring 2018 commencement kicked off Friday with a mid-afternoon session for the College of Health Professions and Michigan College of Optometry. Friday’s late Ferris State Universitysession was dedicated to graduates of the Doctorate in Community College Leadership, College of Arts and Sciences, and College of Pharmacy. Commencement continued, Saturday morning, with a ceremony for the College of Education and Human Services prior to an early-afternoon ceremony for the College of Engineering Technology before concluding with a later-afternoon session for College of Business graduates. This spring, approximately 1,900 students participated in commencement exercises for Spring 2018.

Eisler addressed the graduates with messages that encouraged pride in the accomplishment of earning a college degree. He further advised graduates to show appreciation for family, friends and other supporters who contributed to the achievement of earning a college degree.

“It is a true honor to stand before you, the Class of 2018. Today is a wonderful opportunity for you to reflect on your accomplishments here at Ferris State University,” he said. “At such a time, you need to know your success is built on the collective efforts of so many people who care about you and who take great pride in your growth and development.”

Featured speakers were Ferris’ Spring 2018 honorary doctorate recipients: Alex Gorsky, chairman of the board and chief executive officer at Johnson & Johnson; Robert and Ellen Thompson, of The Thompson Foundation; and College of Business alumna Teresa McKay, director of the Department of Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

Gorsky, the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Health Professions, spoke to graduates of the College of Health Professions and Michigan College of Optometry. He saluted Ferris as a university of opportunity. Gorsky further encouraged graduates to be ready when opportunities present themselves.

“You really are at the right place at the right time. You can reach your dreams and most importantly you can make a real difference in the world,” Gorsky said. “After all, you are graduating from the opportunity university. Go out there and change the future of healthcare. We need you to do that. It’s a big challenge, but when I look out and see you and the enthusiasm and the positive nature you represent, I am more optimistic than ever that you’ll be able to do that, and more. Once again, congratulations to the Class of 2018. Go out and make us all proud.”

Saturday morning, Robert Thompson spoke of the good fortune that has blessed him and his wife, Ellen, throughout their lives. He spoke of that good fortune as motivation for him and Ellen to give back, to help others.

“Ellen and I have been so lucky all our lives. So, we’re more than willing to share our luck with others. Let me tell you why I think this Honorary Doctorate degree means so much to me. It is because Ferris is my idea of what a university ought to be,” said Robert who, along with Ellen, received the Honorary Doctorate of Human Letters as he addressed graduates of the College of Education and Human Services.

McKay, after firing the crowd up with a shout out to the 2018 NCAA Division II National Champion Ferris Men’s Basketball Team, spoke to graduates about being dependable and being problem solvers.

“You need to establish yourself as a person who can be counted on,” said McKay, who received an Honorary Doctorate of Business and Industry at the ceremony. “You need to be counted on to deliver, to deliver value to your organization. Be a person who keeps your commitment, be the person who can find a creative solution to a problem, the person who brings a project to the finish line on time.”

McKay added that the time is right for the Class of 2018.

“You are graduating at a really great time. We employers are fighting over you. I encourage you to take advantage of the situation,” she said. “I believe you will be presented with surprising opportunities along your journey. Maybe some that are not in your plan, maybe some that seem a bit uncomfortable, but I encourage you to consider pursuing those opportunities. Don’t settle for the path of least resistance.”

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