Hours after the historic liftoff of Launch America’s manned space program, members of Rose-Hulman’s 2020 graduating class launched their own careers by receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a special virtual Commencement that was filled with personality, memories, and inspiration.

In the Commencement Address, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb urged the graduates to follow in the footsteps of other outstanding Rose-Hulman graduates, including National Aviation Hall of Famer Abe Silverstein, a 1927 mechanical engineering alumnus who set a foundation for America’s manned space missions and eventually putting humans on the moon, as NASA’s first director of space flight programs.

“Put what you’ve learned here to work,” stated Indiana’s 51st governor. “The skills you have acquired not only will help you navigate our complex world; they are the foundation of America’s greatness … We need your skills to revitalize our infrastructure, to power our homes and cities, to feed the world, to protect our environment, and yes, to find treatments for diseases like COVID-19.”

Holcomb added, “In a world of smart machines, your skills and knowledge differentiate you in the industries of the future and will thus help the United States continue to differentiate itself in a competitive world.”

The governor asked Rose-Hulman’s Class of 2020 to “be part of something bigger than yourself,” stating, “You are difference makers, discoverers, doers, curve raisers, collaborators, innovators and inventors, and fearless force multipliers. You turn science fiction into science faction and make old predictions in Popular Mechanics magazines look outdated and obsolete.

“You’re the entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, and leaders who are making our lives better. But don’t take it from me. Take it from Abe Silverstein who once said ‘You don’t predict the future, you make it!’”

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Holcomb also received an honorary doctor of humane letters from the institute.

President Robert Coons and Grand Marshal Erik Hayes are looking forward to meeting Rose-Hulman’s newest alumni in person at an on-campus event later this year. Details will be released when they are finalized.

The Class of 2020 included 461 students who received bachelor’s or master’s degrees after completing the spring academic quarter. The group featured the first graduate in data science, five students earned two degrees, seven graduated with a triple major, and 64 had a double major. Another 51 students are anticipating to earn degrees following coursework during the summer or next fall.

Three students earned the Heminway Gold Medal for completing their degrees with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages: Jiaxuan Chen, an electrical engineering and mathematics double major; Kevin Ferguson, a mechanical engineering and mathematics double major; and Gabriel Paree-Huff, an electrical engineering graduate.

Other student awards went to two chemical engineering and chemistry graduates: Rachel Shubella, the Herman A. Moench Distinguished Senior Commendation, and Connor Ray, the John T. Royse Award.

Ninety percent of the graduates have already accepted full-time employment, been commissioned military officers after completing Army/Air Force ROTC programs, or are planning to attend graduate school. Leading employers included Collins Aerospace, Honeywell, Edgile, Naval Sea Systems Command, Epic, Microsoft, Amazon, Milwaukee Tool, Northrop Grumman, Kimley-Horn, Marathon Petroleum, ArcelorMittal, General Motors, Caterpillar, Eli Lilly and Company, Ford, Groupon, International Paper, Texas Instruments, and Kiewit.

Faculty and staff recognized were chemistry and biochemistry professor Rebecca DeVasher, Dean’s Outstanding Teacher Award; chemical engineering professor and department head Adam Nolte, Trustees’ Outstanding Scholar Award; and Janie Szabo, instructional designer in the Office of Learning and Technology, President’s Outstanding Service Award.

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