It’s that special time of year again as the winter semester commencement ceremonies arrive in a matter of days. With more than 1,000 graduates — not to mention the many guests who will visit campus — there are plenty of great stories to anticipate. I can provide a preview of a few of those.
It wasn’t so long ago when Shaun Johnson was receiving his bachelor’s degree in history from SVSU in 2002. Now Shaun, the deputy general counsel for CMS Energy and its principal subsidiary Consumers Energy, will serve as the keynote speaker during the Friday and Saturday ceremonies. Many of you may remember Shaun when he served as president of the Student Association and was a member of the Sigma Pi fraternity. I am thankful that he has agreed to return here to welcome the next generation of alumni.
Speaking of that next generation: There are so many success stories involving this semester’s class of graduates. While we will hear about the stories of many of these graduates in the coming days, weeks, years and decades, let me mention two — for now — whose similar stories of success bring me great pride in our students and the people who help them achieve great things.
First, there is Sarah Tennyson, who would not allow cerebral palsy stop her from pursuing her dream of earning a bachelor’s degree in communications. When a deadly stomach disease derailed those plans in 2012, Sarah fought hard to return to class. Last year, she did. Much of this achievement was of her own commitment and perseverance, but she is quick to thank faculty and staff who helped her along the way. Please take the time to read her whole story. On Saturday, she will be among those honored at commencement.
We continue to receive thoughtful letters of appreciation from parents and soon to be graduates, attesting to how so many of you go above and beyond to serve them. One recent example is Natalie Jacobs, a Birmingham native who — like Sarah — will graduate with a degree in communications. Her parents wrote me a letter recently. Let me share one particular passage that moved me:
"Saturday will be an amazing day for our family, and it couldn’t have happened without an enlightened perspective — that all students, regardless of disability or other challenges — can be afforded the opportunity of an education. At a time when many are questioning the efficacy of funding disability programs, our daughter — and SVSU — are shining examples of what happens when priorities, energy, belief, effort, and yes, funding come together.”
To Natalie, Sarah, both of your families, and everyone in this SVSU family of ours: Of course we believe in you. We are so honored that you believed in us
Student Life recently presented the end-of-the-year achievement awards to outstanding registered student organizations and individual award winners. In total, 19 awards were presented to very-deserving recipients who contribute so much to the campus and surrounding community. RSOs such as Active Minds, which organized a push-up challenge to raise awareness for veterans who have died by suicide, and Tau Kappa Epsilon, which recently raised funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through the courtyard “Teker-Totter” event, were among the organizations recognized. Congratulations to these organizations and everyone recognized at this event.
A flock of Cardinals attended the annual meeting for the United Way of Saginaw County. United Way does wonderful things for our community. In that respect, the organization shares many of our institution’s core values, so it was fitting that so many members of our SVSU family participated in United Way activities.
Let me wish the best of luck to our Cardinal Formula Racing team scheduled to compete in the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) Collegiate Design Series on May 10-13 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The contest attracts top talent from exceptional institutions across the planet. Our team for years has placed tops among all of the programs featuring exclusively undergraduate students. Brooks Byam since 1998 has led this standout team as advisor. I look forward to seeing the results later this month.
On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of celebrating the successes of the nearly 300 Saginaw Public Schools graduating seniors who completed the SVSU GEAR UP program, which promotes academic excellence for low-income students with ambition to pursue postsecondary educations. We first engaged this particular cohort of students seven years ago. Thank you to everyone who helped these students succeed.
I am pleased to announce that, after a successful first year with the program, SVSU is committed to doubling our investment in The Saginaw Urban and Civic Partnership Scholarship, which offers $3,000 annually for students who reside within the Saginaw Promise Zone. This means that up to 20 students per year — up from 10 during the inaugural year — will be eligible to capitalize on this opportunity. You may remember, recipients of this scholarship will be expected to engage in one or more service projects aimed at encouraging students within Saginaw Public Schools to pursue higher education, so this is an opportunity that has benefits beyond those receiving the financial support.
Along with warmer weather, the spring and summer months bring construction work. I hope you will be patient as always in allowing these hard-working men and women helping to improve the conditions of our campus and surrounding community. On Sunday, we will shut off electricity to nearly the entire campus in order to have our entire main electrical switchgear system on campus inspected, exercised, cleaned and repaired, as necessary. This work will be done for both indoor and outdoor switches and transformers. This outage will begin around 7 a.m. and remain in effect for most of the day. Then, on Monday, the intersection of Davis and Pierce roads will be closed to vehicle traffic, and the closure is expected to last two weeks. This is due to the planned City of Saginaw water main project. Please plan to use an alternate route during this timeframe. Watch for more campus construction updates as the underground gas system work continues from May to July.
A number of our spring sports teams are continuing their play on the field. The men’s golf team qualified for the 2017 NCAA Division II Super Regionals from May 8-10 in Axtell, Nebraska. The women’s softball team begin this weekend’s GLIAC Tournament as the No. 3 seed in Findlay, Ohio. Our team will play No. 6-ranked Hillsdale at noon. The track & field teams began competition in the 2017 GLIAC Outdoor Championships in Allendale on Wednesday and will wrap up Friday. Best of luck to all our student-athletes in these competitions.
I would also like to congratulate Kellen Smith, a member of the men’s basketball Elite Eight team from 2016, on signing a contract on Thursday to play for the Norwood Flames, a professional basketball team in Australia. Go Cards!