December 15, 2018

At the conclusion of Fall Commencement today, Ball State University President Geoffrey S. Mearns urged graduates to pursue their dreams with passion and with courage. 

"And pursue it with great optimism," President Mearns said. "We believe in a better future — a world that is more peaceful and more just. We believe in that bright future, because we believe in you.

"Finally, on a personal note, please never forget to show your appreciation and your affection for your family and friends — and for all of the other people who have helped you to become the talented women and men that you are. Honor their gifts to you, and repay the debt that you owe them, by sharing your talents and your good fortune with others — with others who need you."

Watch a replay of the ceremony.

President Mearns spoke to graduates and their families — as well as faculty, staff, and alumni. During the two-hour event in Worthen Arena, the University conferred more than 1,500 degrees.

Attendees also heard from Ashley C. Ford, who received her bachelor's degree at the ceremony. Ford, a New York-based writer and media host, spoke about "Everything is Practice."

She is currently working on her memoir, "Somebody's Daughter," to be published by Flatiron Books under the imprint An Oprah Book, and she hosts the daily Brooklyn based news and culture TV show "112BK." She has written and guest-edited for numerous publications, including Elle, BuzzFeed, Slate, Teen Vogue, and New York Magazine. She has contributed to and hosted "Fortune Favors the Bold" podcast, a collaboration between Gimlet Creative and Mastercard.

Ford spoke of her past need to be perfect — and why that was a mistake.

"We’re all human beings. Every. Single. One of us," she said. "And humans are not perfect."

"Why keep grappling for that which is not a worthy goal?" she later said. "Because perfection doesn't have anything to do with helping anyone else. It has to do with our own egos. That’s why it’s lazy. It’s only about you."

Instead, she urged her audience to strive for excellence, resilience, faith, and gratitude. Much of what she has accomplished was because of the support she received at Ball State, said Ford, who asked students to take a moment to think about and thank the people in their own lives who did the same for them.

Also during the ceremony, an honorary degree was awarded to Shirley Brice Heath, a 1964 Ball State graduate who received a doctor of humane letters. She is a linguistic anthropologist whose primary research centers on how learning across contexts within both the sciences and the arts takes place most effectively and with the greatest retention and invention.