From May 5 to 13, Indiana University will celebrate the accomplishments of nearly 22,000 graduates in nine commencement ceremonies across the state.
Student commencement speakers
Each campus will feature a student speaker during its commencement ceremony. These nine accomplished soon-to-be alumni were selected to represent their graduating class and will address their fellow graduates and guests during their campus’s event.
In Bloomington, Gayatri Thiru will speak at the undergraduate ceremony, and Muna Adem will address the graduate ceremony.
Thiru, a double major in finance through the Kelley School of Business and neuroscience through the College of Arts and Sciences, will begin a job as a financial analyst in New York City following graduation. During her time at IU, she’s participated in an eclectic array of activities, including the Beekeeping Club at IU, the Autism Mentoring Program and the U.S. Army Reserve.
“I want to see what my brain’s capacity is; how much can I learn and absorb? … There’s nothing to stop me in this short life,” she said.
Adem will earn a doctorate in sociology in May before joining the University of Maryland as an assistant professor of sociology. Growing up in Sweden and Germany after her parents fled Ethiopia, Adem experienced segregation and discrimination but also saw how support and encouragement by teachers can uplift both communities and individuals.
“It does take a village to make it, and usually we don’t make it to the top alone. There’s people in the background who have helped us along the way,” Adem said. “I think it’s essential to always remember where you come from and give back whenever possible.”
In Indianapolis, Myra Kivett will serve as the undergraduate speaker, while Mikki Jaramillo will address the graduate ceremony.
Kivett graduated in December with a degree in communication studies from the School of Liberal Arts and with highest distinction from the Honors College. In addition, she completed a music minor, taking voice lessons and advancing her skills on the piano and guitar. Kivett is now working on a master’s degree in applied communication at IUPUI and continuing to pursue her music career.
“I feel like in life, you don’t necessarily realize all the hard things you’ve done. … We’re kind of able to use all of those things to help move us forward,” she said.
Nominated by leaders in the School of Dentistry, Jaramillo will be the first student speaker to be featured in a graduate commencement. She has not only achieved the highest ranks in coursework, clinical skills and research, but has given back to the community through the campus’s Student Outreach Clinic, a free clinic providing dental, medical and other services for uninsured and underserved individuals, during her time at IUPUI.
“Not too many schools have an organization where the students get to … really participate in the running and management of a clinic,” Jaramillo said. “It kind of helps everyone feel more passionate about the community, and that’s really important for health care in general.”
Honorary degree recipients
Two honorary degrees will be awarded during commencement, one during the Bloomington ceremony and one during the IU Northwest ceremony.
James T. Morris will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the undergraduate ceremony at IU Bloomington on May 6. Morris is a native Hoosier and IU alumnus with a long and distinguished history of service to the university and the state of Indiana. Twice serving on the IU Board of Trustees, Morris is vice chairman of Pacers Sports & Entertainment, which owns both the Indiana Pacers and the Indiana Fever.
Morris has received numerous awards throughout his career, including Indiana’s Sagamore of the Wabash, the IU Herman B Wells Visionary Award and the Sachem Award from Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2021.
“Jim is the best of what it means to be a Hoosier,” said Amir Pasic, Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. “It is difficult to overstate Jim Morris’ contributions to Indiana University, to our state and to our humanitarianism worldwide.”
Justice Robert D. Rucker will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws at the IU Northwest commencement ceremony on May 11. Rucker was the 105th justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, appointed by Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon in 1999. He served in that position until he retired in 2017.
Rucker served with the First Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War and was awarded both the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart before returning to IU Northwest to complete his undergraduate degree. He was the first African American appellate judge in Indiana and served as the vice chair of the Indiana Commission for Continuing Legal Education.
In recognition of Rucker’s lifetime contributions to Northwest Indiana and to the legal profession, the Lake County Commissioners named the courthouse in downtown Gary the Robert D. Rucker Courthouse in 2010.
“As a scholar, a distinguished jurist and engaged citizen, Justice Rucker opened the door for opportunity, equity and inclusion to improve the lives and prospects for people of historically under-represented backgrounds,” said Ken Iwama, chancellor of IU Northwest. “His work, his legacy and his name stand as a powerful testament to his care and regard for all Hoosiers, something to which the IU mission commits us.”
Honorary degrees are the highest academic recognition as well as the oldest established honor at the university. Morris and Rucker will join a distinguished list of other honorary degree recipients when they receive their honors.
Tia Broz, Elizabeth Cotter, Kirk Johannessen and April Name contributed to this story.