WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Nearly 2,000 students become graduates after Purdue University's Winter Commencement Sunday. This year marks the 239th ceremony.
Dr. Rita Colwell was this year's guest speaker. Graduating students listened as she shared words of encouragement for the future. Colwell has made history with her life-saving discoveries in global infectious diseases, water, and health. President Bill Clinton appointed her as the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation. She also served as the Co-chair of the Committee on Science, National Science and Technology Council.
After receiving her bachelor's degree from Purdue University she went on to receive 63 honorary degrees from various colleges.
Graduates say her words have inspired them.
"Women can do anything and she was such an inspiration," said Jeni Szmidt, who received a Master of Science degree in Strategic and Public Relations. "I'm not a scientist by any means but listening to what she has done. I was super inspired."
"Bachelor of Science in the 60s I mean, I can't even imagine the difficulty she has faced but hearing the great things she has done today really inspires me," said Aakrati Jain, who received a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering.
"It's a complex world and there are big issues we need to approach thoughtfully with a lot of compassion, that spoke a lot to me," said Marcus Smith, who received a Ph.D. in History with a specialization in the modern middle east.
The graduates say there is a lot to look forward to as they enter their next chapter of life.
"I'm a director of public relations for a big hospital system so I'm going to continue that but my dream would be to run a non-profit organization one day that would be what I would love to do the most," said Szmidt.
"Working as a hardware engineer in IBM research so that's my plan for the immediate future," said Jain.
"I got into this career track because I served with the army in Iraq," said Smith. "It got me curious about the region I was serving in so I started studying it, decided I wanted to teach it so that's my goal."
The university held two ceremonies on Sunday at the Edward C. Elliot Hall of Music. The first at 9:30 a.m. and the second at 2 p.m.