“Live, love, learn, leadership” were the four words of wisdom given to Upper Iowa University 2016 commencement speaker Mary Cheddie during two UIU commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 7.
Cheddie, an Iowa native who earned her MBA at Upper Iowa in 2008, has more than 25 years of domestic and international experience in all aspects of human resources and training. She has extensive experience with strategic planning and starting and turning around businesses. Currently Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Interval Leisure Group in Miami she has received numerous awards, including the HR Award of Excellence in Hospitality. In 2011, Business Leader Magazine named her as one of its “Women Extraordinaire,” and the National Diversity Council recognized her with the “Glass Ceiling Award” in 2012.
Noting that she was born with only half the bones in her feet, Cheddie said she was told she would never be “normal.”
“I decided that I would be ‘normal,’ and I took off my special shoes and braces, put them in the closet and chose to be ‘normal,’” she later continued.
Recalling her basketball and track honors in high school and college, playing semi-pro ball, and still pursuing fitness activities today, Cheddie added, “You are the only one in control of your mindset. How you live each day is up to you. You, and only you decide how you will deal with situations, acknowledge successes, and get around hurdles. We can either just accept what comes our way, or we make
The UIU alumna called on graduates to love what they do, saying, “When you do things that you love to do, you are not really ‘working’ – instead you are following your heart and doing something that you add value to, and are therefore able to make a difference.”
Recounting the story of a 60-year-old woman laid off from the bank where she had worked for 40 years, Cheddie said, “She chose to take this as a great opportunity! Guess what? She hated banking. She had spent 40 years working in a career/industry that she did not love. She was so excited to be laid off – and she pursued her dream. Of becoming a nurse… She loves what she is doing and now at age 74 is making a huge difference to her patients. Do not ever let anyone kill your dreams. You own them – go make them a reality!”
Quoting Gandhi, the UIU speaker urged graduates to “Live like you will die today, but learn like you will live forever.’ …I am hungry to continuously learn and so should you be! The minute we stop learning is when we die. Explore, find new things to learn and grow your mind, heart, and body.”
In addition, Cheddie referenced author John C. Maxwell as she encouraged graduates to be prepared to seize leadership opportunities.
“We are each ‘called’ to be a leader. Some will lead for a moment, some for a life,” she said, while relating to Maxwell’s story about Japanese Consul-General Chiune Sugihara who woke one morning in 1940 to find Jewish refugees crowded outside the gate of his consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania. Trying to escape the Nazis, the refugees had heard they could get out through Lithuania if they could get a transit visa from the Japanese government. Defying orders to do nothing, he issued, more than 6,000 visas in 29 days.
“Some people lead for a lifetime. Others receive only a moment to show the way. Chiune Sugihara made the most of his brief opportunity. When you receive your opportunity to lead, will you?” Cheddie challenged.
Saturday’s 154th commencement exercises on the Fayette campus marked the first year that UIU has graduated students from the Csomay Honors Program. Before her death, Barbara (Rankin) Csomay, class of 1946, established the Csomay Honors Program on the Fayette campus. To be accepted into the Honors Program, students must have at least a 26 ACT score and at least a 3.5 high school grade point average.
Receiving the Csomay Honors Program medallions were Lucas Braun, Jesup, Iowa; Sydney Cyzon, DePere, Wis.; William Kenney, Coon Rapids, Minn.; Bradley Kuboushek, Calmar, Iowa, and Dustin Osier, Greene, Iowa.
During the two ceremonies in Harms-Eischeid Stadium, a total of 550 graduates walked across the stage. In 2016, some 1,841 students earned associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees from UIU. Of those, 219 graduated from the Fayette location, some 863 completed their degree at a U.S. center, 217 graduated through online or self-paced study programs, and 309 were from the international centers in Hong Kong and Malaysia. UIU is one of the most diverse universities in Iowa. In all, the graduates represented 41 states and 17 nations.
Commencement photos can be found on Flickr.
The Bridge Online will provide information on where to view the commencement video(s) online, when the editing process in completed.
Congratulations to all 2016 UIU graduates.