Franklin College graduates ready to make their marks

After their final year and a half at Franklin College was colored by the coronavirus pandemic, 194 undergraduates and 25 graduate students are entering the next chapter of their lives with unique experiences.

Graduates gathered one last time as students at Stewart “Red” Faught Stadium and heard words from keynote speaker Billie Dragoo, founder and CEO of Indianapolis-based RepuCare, as well as President Kerry Prather, President of the Board of Trustees James Due, and Charles Hall, an exercise science graduate who was elected by the class as student speaker.

Their character tested by the pandemic, they succeeded in graduating despite those challenges. The Class of 2021 is highly prepared to take on life beyond college, Prather said.

“Yours has not been a conventional college experience,” Prather said. “But as Grizzlies do, you adapted. You hung in there and you consciously chose to focus on the positive and the possible. You remained confident and you encouraged one another. You impressively navigated an unchartered path with grit and grace. Those qualities will continue to serve you well.”

The receipt of their diploma Saturday was the culmination of hard work, discipline, sacrifice and perseverance. What the graduates achieve in the next phases of their lives is the true worth of Franklin College, he said.

“(We) are here to witness you joining the generations of Franklin College graduates before you who have left this place to make their mark on the world. It is exciting for all of us to envision the difference each of you will make in the years to come,” Prather said.

Dragoo told the graduates her path to success was winding. At age 20, she was a single mom living in Franklin who got a job as a recruiter without knowing that was the path that would lead to her success in business.

Dragoo worked her way through the recruiting industry and eventually founded the fourth largest small business in Indiana through life-long learning and refusing to give up, even after failures, she said.

“My path was one of risk, courage and faith. I chose to be an entrepreneur and I have stayed the course. When you get down to the core, entrepreneurship is about creating something physical out of a dream that comes from inside a person,” Dragoo said.

She gave the graduates several pieces of advice she learned from fellow entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Among other lessons, she asked the graduates to remember to turn the impossible into the possible, learn when to quit and when to apply grit, to embrace diversity of opinions, learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and to remember their morals.

“It matters how you play the game. We need you to act with courage and integrity. To become known as a person who will never sacrifice their principles and values for short term gains. We need you to seek out and discover the truth in every situation and to act in ways that benefit us all. Finally, we need you to show humility,” Dragoo said.

Through all life throws at them, she asked the graduates to remember a motto that has helped her throughout her life. That motto: “and yet here you are.”

Dragoo was also awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

In his speech Hall, of Owensboro, Ky., recalled some of his favorite memories and how he met close friends. Though the road ahead may be uncertain for some, he asked his fellow graduates to make the most of their next steps, just like they made the most of their time in college.

“When people ask me how I feel about graduating I give the same answer as I gave four years ago: a little scared, a little excited, but also nervous,” Hall said. “We all adjusted to college. We all will adjust to our next journey in life. Remember it is not if but how you decide to embrace this journey.”