The photos played on centered screens hanging from the rafters centered in the Schottenstein Center in what one could imagine had to be a planned out production: first came the O-H-I-O formed in front of the Thompson Statue, then a shot of students walking on The Oval, the steps of Orton Hall and the path to the Ohio Union. Next was the Lane Avenue Bridge,both an entrance and exit of campus.
These images, which were shown Sunday before Autumn Commencement began, encapsulated the journey that so many Ohio State students experience throughout their time on campus: forming O-H-I-O with friends for the first time as a Buckeye; walking across The Oval on the first day of class; hearing the bells of Orton ring when the clock strikes every 15 minutes; studying for finals or gathering for club activities at The Union and, then finally, leaving campus for the first time as alumni.
The record-breaking class of Autumn graduates was the largest in history, receiving 3,721 degrees total. Of those were 225 receiving doctorate’s, 453 receiving master’s and around 3,400 undergraduates receiving bachelor’s degrees.
Those students came from 65 countries, six continents and were aged between 17 and 64 years old.
Sen. Rob Portman was the keynote speaker, angering some students who believed he did not represent the graduating class. There were rumblings of a student walk-out to occur during Portman’s speech, however no such event occurred.
Portman spoke on the uniqueness and talent those graduating possess, also praising Ohio State for inviting and welcoming speakers of various political parties, such as presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
“This institution has welcomed a wide variety of views and in general, the university has encouraged spirited but respectful discourse,” Portman said. “That tolerance and respect for other points of view is part of what makes America extraordinary and should be the hallmark of any great university.”
Portman said he could not remember who spoke at his graduation, and doubted those in attendance would, either. But he said he wished to give advice that might be remembered — for graduates to focus on working hard and demonstrating care, two traits that he said determine success.
“Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the value of handwork,” he said. “It’s easy sometimes to fall into this trap thinking getting ahead is somehow out of your control or a matter of luck.
“I have found in my life that the harder I work, the luckier I get. Hard work is the ingredient to success over which you actually have the most control.”
Portman said it’s important for graduates to hold onto the dream they have, not allowing others to alter or shape it.
“Follow your dream. Not someone else’s dream for you. You’ll be more inclined to pour into all of your passion and energy into things you love,” Portman said.
“Don’t let the expectations from others overshadow your dreams and your goals.”
He offered some reassurance to those who might not have a post-graduation plan exactly mapped out.
“Its OK to be unsure about your exact direction in life at this point,” he said. “Trust me, I did not plan on being a United States senator when I was 22 years old. And neither did my professors.”
He ended his speech with a “fairly simple” piece of advice: “Be kind and be true. Nothing is more important.”
Portman said every relationship in both one’s personal and professional life rely on trust, which comes from someone’s honesty and goodwill. He urged students to build that trust through kindness and truth.
“Just as you’ll never regret doing your best, and following your dreams, you’ll never regret honesty in pursuit of your goals.”
University President Michael Drake also spoke during commencement. He shared a personal narrative, asking graduates to thank those who demonstrate constant support and praise for their accomplishments because, he said, those people are “not everyone.”
Drake said he went through medical school with a mentor named Jim, who demonstrated the constant support he spoke of.
“Unlike most of our colleagues and many many friends, [Jim] didn’t have a speck of jealousy,” Drake said, reflecting on times when he surpassed his mentor in leadership roles. “The more I moved, the more he lifted. And when I got too far up for him to lift, he would just applaud,” he said.
Even after Drake completed his time working with Jim, the mentor would send him emails every two to three weeks, congratulating the eventual university president on any and all of his accomplishments.
“Make sure to — more often than you think you should — thank [your mentors] and let them know you appreciate them,” he said.
“The people we have that support us, who care about us, who want to lift us up and who bask in the glory of our own success so that it becomes their success,” Drake said. “Those people are limited.
“If you appreciate the blessings that you have in life and the people you have around you who help make those blessings real, your life will be enriched by the recurring majesty of human achievement and by the limitless opportunities of the future that you will help create,” Drake said.