Rain drummed down upon the Cox Convention Center as OCCC President Paul Sechrist delivered his final formal address to graduates during the 2015 Commencement Ceremony.
Not only rain dampened the cheeks of some graduates, their friends and families, or of Sechrist himself when he gave the keynote speech to OCCC’s 42nd graduating class on May 8.
“What a profound privilege it has been for me in the last decade to be the president of Oklahoma City Community College,” Sechrist said.
“Tonight represents why there is even a president. To the graduates, you are why there is an OCCC.
“Your degree is a ticket to a better life. For our state to become better, we need more people like you.”
Then Sechrist took a moment in his speech to question what he could tell this graduating class that hadn’t already been said.
“What can I say to inspire you?” he asked.
As he addressed graduates to tell them, “It’s all about you,” his voice cracked and his eyes visibly moistened.
Much of the crowd responded similarly.
“I thought about your journey to this milestone tonight,” Sechrist said, enumerating the array of challenges that he’s known OCCC students to have overcome.
Elize Hopkins, graduating with a science degree, said Sechrist’s speech moved her.
“It made me cry,” she said. “I’m the first one out of my family to have any sort of degree.”
Sechrist then addressed friends and families in the crowd, urging them to take lessons from the graduates, lessons he said he had learned from OCCC’s students.
“Don’t give up,” he said. “These students didn’t.
“They didn’t give up because it got difficult. They know that life is difficult and they work through the difficult.”
Sechrist told the crowd to do as the graduates had done and disregard words of those who discourage them.
“They chose to listen to those who said they can,” he said.
His third lesson for the audience was about courage.
“Don’t let fear stop you,” Sechrist said.
He addressed the graduates once more, offering parting advice.
“Stay curious. If you stay curious, you will continue learning forever,” he said. “Be kind to one another.
“If I had to name one positive outcome of the tragedies we’ve experienced in Oklahoma, it’s embodying the Oklahoma standard.”
Toyo Shogbamimu, who got his degree in management information systems, said this phrase touched him.
“As somebody who worked at the Oklahoma City Memorial Museum, it really spoke out to me about the kind of community that we should build in our world.”
Sechrist congratulated students for their rejection of fear and negativity, and encouraged them on their way forward.
“Here you are tonight and all of us are gathered here with you to watch you fly,” he said.
Miranda Carlisle graduated with a humanities degree.
“It was very emotional,” she said. “It’s sad to see him leave but I’m glad he was the last speaker.”
Sechrist ended the ceremony with an Irish blessing:
“May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. And may the hand of a friend always be near you.
“And until we meet again, may God hold you safe in the palm of his hand.”
Class of 2015 steps into the future
OCCC graduates wave to their family and friends during the 2015 graduation ceremony at the Cox Convention Center on May 8. Hundreds of students braved thunderstorms to receive their diplomas. President Paul Sechrist was the keynote speaker.
OCCC graduates wait before lining up at the 2015 graduation ceremony at the Cox Convention Center on May 8. OCCC President Paul Sechrist encouraged the grads with his final speech before he retires July 1.“Stay curious. If you stay curious, you will continue learning forever,” he said. “Be kind to one another.”
OCCC President Paul Sechrist congratulates Professor of the Year recipient Kathy Wheat during the 2015 graduation ceremony. Wheat is the program director and professor for the Speech-Language Pathology Assistant program.
History major Jenna Duvall waits to enter the graduation ceremony at the Cox Convention Center on May 8. Duvall personalized her scooter for the evening’s festivities.
Psychology major Tanya Richard gets ready to line up before the 2015 graduation ceremony at the Cox Convention Center on May 8.
Graduate Jorge Krzyzaniak holds a lifesize cutout of his friend and fellow graduate Ethan Cooper who was unable to attend the commencement.
Several OCCC graduates personalized their graduation caps with various sayings and decorations at the 2015 commencement. It was one way to stand out to family members looking down on a sea of black-robed students.
To contact Jorge Krzyzaniak, email firstname.lastname@example.org