As the bell chimes at 10 o'clock, the video screen outside the David Owsley Museum of Art fills with live shots of the scenery.
When students’ faces would show up on the screen, the soon-to-be graduates would wave and smile, their cheers filling the North Quad.
And then, with gray skies overhead and the band playing “Pomp and Circumstance,” President Geoffrey Mearns walks down the middle aisle. Alongside him is his platform party while the Class of 2023 rises and stands.
On May 5, the Class of 2023 gathered together and turned their tassels from right to left as they attended the spring commencement ceremony in the Quad.
Randall Pond’s “Ball State Story”
Randall Pond did not come to Ball State directly from high school. Fifty years ago, after two construction accidents within the span of a year, Pond came to Ball State in the middle of the year and looked for financial aid.
On May 6, he was speaking to the graduates of the class of 2023 as the commencement speaker for the main ceremony, telling those in attendance about his own “Ball State Story.”
Pond, a 1977 graduate of Ball State, spent more than two decades with Cisco Systems, a technology networking company, in various leadership roles. Now a corporate vice president of finance at AMD, Pond has strengthened his ties with Ball State in the preceding decades.
For almost three decades after his graduation, he had “very little interaction” with the university, he said.
“I was across the country,” Pond said. “I got back in case I needed to see my family, but I did not get back to campus.”
However, this period came to an end when the then-dean of the Miller College of Business visited his Cisco office and gave him an update about the university. She also asked Pond to share his Ball State experience.
In that conversation, he specifically recalled two events during his time at Ball State, which were “much more transformational” to his life than he realized; getting a $3,000 grant to continue his education when he ran into financial trouble and when Paul Parkinson, the head of the accounting department, convinced Pond to take an internship and to add an accounting major onto his economics major.
That conversation in his Cisco office led to Pond becoming more involved with the university, with him eventually serving on the Ball State University Foundation Board of Directors for 15 years, serving on the Miller College of Business Executive Advisory Board and being bestowed the President’s Medal of Distinction by President Mearns Friday night.
“My re-engagement with the university has been wonderful,” Pond said. “Not only was the university good to me, but at the core of the university lies a very different experience and outcomes for our students.”
Mearns gives remarks
President Mearns, as the sun began to peek in from the clouds, called commencement “a celebration of the achievements of our students” while offering advice to the newly-minted graduates of Ball State.
Mearns recognized the work of the university in their role of helping students get to graduation, saying that they engage students as “partners in the quest for knowledge and greater understanding.”
He also reflected on an anecdote involving students from the Department of Theatre and Dance; while cabaret students from Ball State were performing in New York City, they performed a song reflecting on their joy and experiences at Ball State and getting to meet their friends during the fall semester of 2019.
And then, as the voices stopped, reflected Mearns, one of the students read the following passage: “I write to inform you of the additional steps that Ball State is taking to respond to COVID-19.”
Mearns recognized that letter; he wrote that electronic letter on March 11, 2020, informing the campus community that all on-campus instruction would be suspended.
“At that moment, I was reminded again that this email was a watershed moment in all of our lives,” Mearns said.
Relating to that, Mearns commended the persistence of the students to continue to get a Ball State degree during a global health emergency.
“I can now say with complete confidence that you are stronger and more resilient for having experienced this historic challenge,” Mearns said.