Iowa Central Community College graduated its class of 2014 with its 47th annual commencement Friday.
It took 12 minutes for the 430 participating graduates to enter John E. Hodges Fieldhouse. They entered one by one, some young and some older, amid “Pomp and Circumstance.”
As the graduates entered, their families stood in the gymnasium bleachers, almost all of them holding high a mobile device or camera. Because the gymnasium was full, the adjacent Decker Auditorium filled with guests who watched the commencement broadcast on a large screen. When its balconies filled, the other guests stood in the foyer.
Albert Nuness provided the commencement address, titled “It’s Time to Look in the Mirror.” Nuness, vice president of Jostens Inc. of Minneapolis, Minn., is a 1967 graduate of Iowa Central Junior College, as it was then known.
After congratulating this year’s graduating class, Nuness shared what awaited them in the future.
“You will be competing with your classmates throughout the world for very few jobs,” he said. “Your success to some degree will be dependent on that economy being healthy. The most important thing I want you to understand. Those manufacturing jobs that we lost in this country, they aren’t coming back. I need for that to sink in.”
The departing students, though, still have a bright future, Nuness said, thanks to their education.
“The question I have for us, is America’s glass is half full or half empty?” he said. “I say, if we don’t learn to compete in this low-job environment, the glass for most Americans will be half empty.”
Nuness concluded by reciting “The Man in the Glass” by Pete Dale Wimbrow, words, he said, that have inspired him for the past 47 years.
“When you get what you want in your struggle for self, and the world makes you a king for a day, just go to the mirror and look at yourself, and see what the man has to say,” he said.
He added, “Nobody does it alone. We all need help.”
Iowa Central, in fall 2013, graduated 92 students with an associate of arts degree; and 125 students with a diploma, an associate of applied science degree, an associate of science, or an associate of general studies.
For spring and summer 2014, 358 students have declared to graduate with an associate of arts degree; and 589 students have declared with a certificate, diploma, an associate of applied science degree, associate of science, or associate of general studies degree.
Also, 130 students received their high school equivalency diploma from the college.
Ben Skinner, All-Iowa Academic Team and All-USA Academic Team nominee, spoke to his fellow graduates at commencement about dreams.
“Nothing you dream is impossible as long as you believe, have the right mind set and find the necessary tools,” he said. “For all of us here today … this degree from Iowa Central is our new tool.”
Skinner asked the audience, when encountering obstacles and hardships, to never give up on their dreams.
“Each and every one of us here has a very personal goal, a dream,” he said. “Never lose sight of that, and continue to dream.”
Tara Jackson, also an All-Iowa and All-USA academic teams nominee, likened their path to driving on a gravel road on a wintry Iowa day: full of challenges.
“Sometimes in our most miserable moments, we learn a lot about life,” she said. “Negative moments will often pale in comparison to the positive.”
Though the graduates took different roads, Jackson said, Iowa Central was their common destination. Now, at a new crossroads, she asked the audience to remember the path behind them with gratitude.
“The time has come to input a new destination. Before the light changes green, I think we should use this moment to study our reflection in the mirror,” she said. “The song that comes on the radio of our life might sound a bit like this.”
And, to applause, she played “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.