Purdue graduates 400 at mid-year commencement ceremony
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent December 18, 2012 5:30PM
Gabriela Gallegos of Hammond waves to friends and family as her name is called during the winter commencement for Purdue University Calumet at Radisson Star Plaza Theater in Merrillville, Ind. Tuesday December 18, 2012. Gallegos received her degree from the school of liberal arts and social sciences in foreign languages, Spanish.| Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 20, 2013 6:21AM
MERRILLVILLE — More than 400 students saw their long years of study finally recognized Tuesday afternoon as Purdue University Calumet celebrated its mid-year commencement at the Star Plaza Theater.
The December graduating class of 738 students brings Purdue Calumet’s graduating total nearly 47,500.
Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr., once a student and now an adjunct faculty member, recounted his days at Purdue Calumet as being among the happiest of his life. Just out of the U.S. Navy at 26, McDermott started classes in Finance while working full-time to support his family.
“I know a number of you here today have done the same, and that shows discipline,” said McDermott, who admitted he wasn’t the most disciplined of students in high school. “But it is a long day, working full time and then going to school, and then on the weekends catching up on homework.”
The one thing that motivated him his throughout his school career, he said, was fear.
“I was hoping to match the other students’ grades, and I was scared so I worked super hard,” he said. “Then (after law school) we had people graduating and going (to other places) and they’d ask me, ‘Where you going, McDermott?’ And I said, ‘Hammond. That’s why we got our education, so we could come back and make this a better place.’”
McDermott congratulated the 27 graduating students who attended Purdue Cal on the city’s College-Bound Scholarship, which provides Hammond students with up to $10,000 per year to attend any state college. There are a total 124 students on campus currently.
He also lauded the campus’ expansion since he left, including its two dormitories, parking garage, international exchange program and charter school in the city’s downtown.
“This was the university that equipped me to graduate, equipped me to go to law school, to open my own business and run for public office. You have a lot to be proud of.”
Sue Goodwin, 50, was the first person in her family to earn a university baccalaureate degree. Like McDermott, she worked full-time – as an administrative assistant at a bank – and it was often rough going. But through hard work and sacrifices, she made it.
“It could be very rough,” she said. “I had to give up all forms of entertainment. I couldn’t take any overtime at work, and there were times when I had to force myself to do homework. But I’m a disciplined person, period. I talked to my [bank supervisor] and my family, and I made it known that this is what I was going to do,” Goodwin said.
Those graduating with the top grade point average from each of Purdue Calumet’s six academic schools received a Chancellor Medallion. Honors students and other distinguished baccalaureate and associate degree graduates also were recognized.