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Perseverance required of spring and fall NWOSU graduates


December 11, 2020

Desiree Morehead

Graduating seniors may remember themselves more as the Class of Covid-19 than the Class of 2020. NWOSU's spring commencement Sunday looked very different from ceremonies before, but the mask and social distancing didn't hamper the celebration.

Fall commencement at NWOSU usually means a packed Percefull Fieldhouse. Two ceremonies were held Sunday, Dec. 6, with small audiences, face masks and plenty of social distancing.

When the pandemic shut down schools and universities right after spring break, students and instructors were thrown into learning new ways to finish courses. Events were canceled, and the NWOSU spring commencement was postponed indefinitely.

On Sunday, Northwestern Oklahoma State University was finally able to schedule an in-person recognition. Graduates had the opportunity to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas from NWOSU President Dr. Janet Cunningham. Although attendance was limited, proud relatives could watch and support their graduates. Extended family and friends were provided with a live stream of the event online.

Another commencement ceremony was held later in the afternoon, also live streamed, for the fall graduates with the same speakers at both.

NWOSU President Dr. Janet Cunningham welcomed the students, "What a year! As we use the words unprecedented, challenging, and unknown numerous times this year, often in the same day and every day, there are many more words to describe 2020. One word I would use with Northwestern students is perseverance.

"We made quick changes, especially last spring that affected our campus. And our student body persevered through those changes to complete their education."

Speaking to the spring graduates, Cunningham had to pause briefly as she was overcome with emotion, "You deserve to walk across this stage today. You have worked hard to get to this moment whether you are graduating with your bachelors, masters or doctoral degree.

"Abigail Adams, wife to John Adams, once said, 'Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.'

"These works ring especially true in 2020. This year has been nothing short of difficult for those involved in education, but we are so proud of our students for persevering, to our faculty and staff for providing a quality education, to our students throughout the pandemic.

"Today is also a special day made more special. Because not only do we have the opportunity to host a live commencement ceremony for our deserving graduates, but it's also the first graduation of our inaugural doctorate of nursing practice students. Our speaker today was instrumental in the development of this program for Northwestern."

After relating Lohmann's long history with Northwestern as a student, coach, teach and vice president, Cunningham said, "Please extend a warm welcome to my good friend and Longfellow Elementary buddy, Dr. Steve Lohmann."


"You know, I was here at Northwestern for over 30 years, but today was a first for me," said Lohmann. "I've been up on this stage and seated out there as a faculty member 31 times. But today is absolutely the first time I've heard the administration tell me 'I hope the graduates all show up smelling of alcohol.'" Audience members laughed as they realized he was referring to hand sanitizer.

Lohmann told the graduates he wanted to talk about perseverance, vision and intrinsic goals. He described being on the golf course when Dr. Bo Hannaford contacted him about speaking at commencement.

"The first word that came to my mind was perseverance. That word describes this class. That word describes the students at Northwestern," he said. "Perseverance is defined as the ability to keep doing something in spite of obstacles. People who persevere show steadfastness in doing something despite how difficult it is or how long it takes to reach the goal. What a great description of you guys! Perfect!

"No doubt this past year, especially beginning in March, you had to modify your approach to completing your course work and degree. Some of you were probably already enrolled in online courses so it didn't really affect you. But others who were enrolled in face to face courses, you quickly had to adapt possibly meeting via Zoom or other online platforms.

"Internships and student teaching experiences were cut short. Theater productions, band and choir concerts, sports and other activities which you may have participated in on a daily basis were stopped in mid-season or even prior to that season beginning. The normal college life as you knew it took an abrupt turn.

"To quote Helen Keller, 'A bend in the road is not the end of the road...Unless you fail to make the turn.' You all made the turn. Just as Rangers always do, you persevered. You met the challenges and obstacles that were placed before you, and I have no doubt you will meet the challenges that lie ahead."


"The adversity you have experienced will only assist you in your journey forward as you develop your goals for the future," Lohmann continue. "Many of you will be entering into a new profession, if you haven't already. Others may be headed to grad school, law school or medical school. If you're like 90 percent of college graduates, you're just excited to have a job.

Slowly, step by step, day by day you'll begin to develop a routine that allows you to function with more efficiency and effectiveness. It's at that point when your vision starts to become a reality. For some, that vision may be to become the best at whatever you're currently doing. And that's fantastic. Or it may change. You have a desire to become a CEO, a head coach, and administrator, go out and create your own company. Or totally change career paths. They're all fantastic. Whatever you choose to do, however, I ask that you ask yourself this question: Do I see myself in that position, and do I have a passion to achieve that goal? You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Not one of you should ever sell yourself short."

Intrinsic Goals

Lohmann then explained what he calls intrinsic goals or habits. "While your vision sits out here as your ultimate goal, always remember those daily habits, those little things you're committed to on a daily basis will ultimately lead to your vision. I refer to those as my intrinsic goals, those things I do because I find them rewarding or because they provide discipline in my day to day life.

"For example, if you wish to be a healthy individual in your later years, you need to make healthy lifestyle changes in your earlier years which involves exercising on a regular basis, maintaining healthy eating habits, getting the rest you need and avoiding substance abuse.

"The same is going to hold true in your profession. These little things: get to work earlier, dress the part, don't procrastinate, always ask questions, continue learning, always help others, be a volunteer in your community. Always always keep your word. You can have all the money in the world, but the only thing that you're worth is your word. Have integrity, maintain a positive attitude and here's an important one for you: learn to bite your tongue. You don't always have to have an opinion. Put your mind in gear before you put your mouth in gear.

"Your intrinsic habits often have a chance of rubbing off on those around you. Some may criticize you. They may criticize you for your habits. They may even think you're odd. But remember this, you have to be odd to be number one. Are there any math majors out there that got that?"

A Story

In closing, Lohmann told a story to illustrate his points. "This is the story of a girl who grew up on a farm and went to a small school. As a college student, she started out as a student worker in the registry office. Later she became a data clerk and typist in that very office upon graduation.

"Later she became an instructor. She was married, had kids, started a family, a large family. Because of her intrinsic habits, those little things we just talked about, she went off and earned her doctorate and was asked to become vice president for business affairs.

Desiree Morehead

Left: 1978 Northwestern Oklahoma State University graduate Dr. Steve Lohmann was the guest speaker at both graduation ceremonies Sunday. Right: Northwestern graduate Katelyn Evans was able to walk across the stage to receive her BOA in health and sports science education and wore a message for her daddy on her cap.

"However, this lady had a bigger vision. But it didn't come without some bends in the road. She was denied her goal twice, but she persevered. And on her third attempt, she succeeded. As of today, this lady has implemented more successful initiatives, raised more outside funding than any of her predecessors, is a huge student supporter and is the most successful college president in the history of this institution.

"I might add that I know because I served in these areas, that her advice is sought statewide throughout the system of higher education due to her intelligence and integrity. The lady of whom I speak is your college president, Dr. Janet Cunningham.

"Students, the lessons you have learned while attending Northwestern, inside and outside classrooms, are going to provide you with an excellent foundation or continuing to pursue your vision. Personally "I'm looking forward to reading and hearing about the successes of your class.

I hope that you'll find your passion and that your life will be truly fulfilling, not measured simply by monetary success. Congratulations. May God bless you, and ride Rangers ride."


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