Process, Perseverance Put Rose-Hulman’s Class of 2021 in Winner’s Circle

Saturday, May 29, 2021
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Nearly 500 Rose-Hulman students received bachelor’s and master’s degrees on Saturday, May 29, during the institute’s 143rd Commencement—the first year-end event to be conducted outdoors at Cook Stadium’s Phil Brown Field.

Thirty-one years after being inspired toward the winner’s circle of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, Team Penske President Tim Cindric told Rose-Hulman’s Class of 2021 that their degrees will provide the analytical skills to solve future challenges in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

Cindric addressed the 416 members who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from President Robert A. Coons on Saturday, May 29, during the institute’s 143rd Commencement—the first year-end event to be conducted outdoors at Cook Stadium’s Phil Brown Field. Another 65 students participated in the ceremony in anticipation of completing their degree requirements this summer or fall.

In May of 1990, Cindric listened intently as legendary motorsports driver A.J. Foyt gave the Commencement Address and earned a honorary degree from Rose-Hulman. That came before Cindric received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

In a role reversal, Cindric returned to his alma mater to tell the Class of 2021, “I grew up with a dream to find a way to victory lane at the Indianapolis 500. I didn’t really care in what capacity. Rose was the difference for me. I chose Rose-Hulman because I knew it would differentiate me from my peers and it would help me to position myself for an opportunity to work for a team that was capable of winning the Indy 500.”

Eleven years after graduating from Rose, Cindric was in the winner’s circle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as team leader and race strategist for Team Penske. He has been fortunate to help guide seven other Indy 500 winners, among more than 300 race victories and 19 series championships for Team Penske under Cindric’s leadership.

Those championship-level problem-solving, teamworking and leadership skills were nurtured at Rose-Hulman, according to Cindric, who told Rose-Hulman’s Class of 2021, “Throughout your time here at Rose, everyone has been exposed to numbers, formulas, hypothesis and all kinds of physical and mathematical problems.

“It didn’t really dawn on me that the biggest thing I was learning while solving these problems wasn’t really the answer. It was the way in which I was trained to approach a problem. Independent of the curriculum or the major you pursued while you were at Rose, each one of your engineering professors was teaching you the same thing but in different way. They were teaching you process. Each one of you will leave here today with the ability to solve virtually any problem because you know where to go to locate the constants and you have been trained to utilize process to determine the answer.”

Cindric joined Fort Wayne, Indiana-based Steel Dynamics President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Millett in receiving Doctor of Engineering honorary degrees.

This year’s Commencement culminated a challenging 2020-21 academic year that had students, faculty and staff wearing masks around campus and experiencing classes and laboratory sessions with social distancing measures and a mixture of in-class, hybrid and online course offerings, albeit under health and safety requirements.

“Did you sometimes wonder if this day would ever arrive?” President Coons asked the institute’s newest alumni. “As we reflect on your time here, it’s tempting to focus on the past 14 months because of how unusual that period has been. But your experience at Rose-Hulman has been so much more. I cannot overlook the role each of you played in promoting the health and safety of our community during the past year. It is difficult enough to graduate from Rose-Hulman, but to do it in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, with all of the hardships that were entailed, is truly amazing. You can always be proud of the part you played in our successful navigation of this global challenge.”

Coons noted that the Class of 2021 helped usher in new academic majors – data science and engineering design – inaugurated the Mussallem Union and its adjacent Pi-vilion – a glass-enclosed pavilion with sustainable features – and opened the Kremer Innovation Center to increase educational opportunities. Also, athletic teams earned Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championships, students continued to enrich the local community through outreach projects, and important steps were made to expand diversity and inclusion on campus.

Senior Class President Patricia Giraldo, who earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, stated, “If I had to say just one thing, it would be that the people at Rose-Hulman have continued to inspire me to be the best version of myself and I know they will continue to influence my life even after I leave here today. If there’s one thing Rose-Hulman taught us, it’s how to persevere through adversity.”

Student Government Association Past-President Coleman Weaver, who received an electrical engineering degree, added, “Today we are celebrating after a year littered with uncertainty – maybe we had to calculate the percentage needed to pass a class or were faced with circumstances we could not control but, we have made it! Sure, we may have shed a tear or two, maybe even pulled an all-nighter or two. But through the struggles, we have grown. Today is a celebration of this growth, of our achievements, and success. Today is the next turning point of our lives.”

The Office of Career Services reports that even in unprecedented COVID-19 times, the Class of 2021 had another strong 88% placement rate by Commencement, including full-time jobs, graduate school admissions and military commissions. The average accepted starting salary was $76,240, which is comparable to the statistics for the Class of 2020 and nearly $3,000 higher than the 2019 average. The placement rate and average salary are expected to increase within the next six months.

Other Commencement speakers were Kelly Noel, a 2002 electrical engineering alumna and president of the Rose-Hulman Alumni Advisory Board, and Jarvis Faught, vice president of the South Asian Student Alliance who received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.

A moment of silence during the ceremony remembered two members of the Rose-Hulman community who died during the 2020-21 school year: Jake Meister, who was awarded posthumously a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, and Bill Kline, associate dean of innovation.

Watch a replay of this year’s ceremony on Rose-Hulman’s Commencement 2021 webpage. The event’s webpage also has other Commencement details.