“It just doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel like everything is ending,” said Stephanie Cullen, OD ’16. “We’ve been waiting for this for so long that it doesn’t feel like it’s actually here.”
Kyle Reuter, OD ’16, reflected upon his very first year at ICO. Orientation week, his “first time ever in Chicago,” remains his favorite memory. “You see the whole city, and you just get to know everybody super quickly. It’s a lot of fun.”
The quick bond between classmates was a common theme at Commencement. When asked about whom they would like to thank, Abigail Richie, OD ’16, and Joelle Jaros, OD ’16, immediately pointed to each other. Both are now in Minneapolis. Jesus Martinez, OD ’16, reacted the same way alongside Niloufar Masheli, OD ’16. Hopefully, everyone will stay in touch.
Moving on from ICO not only means saying goodbye to friends, but also to helpful colleagues. Graduates mentioned favorite faculty members – Drs. Lesher, Goodfellow, To, Allen, Chaglasian, and many more. Chris Roghair, OD ’16, cherished their help in the IEI. “If you’re unsure about what’s going on, you can ask,” he said. “Being thrown into the fire all by yourself- to have to figure it out- that will be a change.”
Alicia Kinch, OD ’16, wasn’t going to get emotional until a very specific moment. “I feel like it’s not going to be real until they say ‘Doctor’ for the first time.” Thankfully, she only had a couple of hours to wait. Commencement went as smoothly as the crowd could have hoped for, from beautiful weather to the inspiring speeches.
This year’s Commencement Speaker was Millicent Knight, OD ’87, FAARM. She is currently the Vice President, Professional Affairs, North America, at Johnson & Johnson. Dr. Knight brought a message of ambition, open-mindedness, and inclusion to the Class of 2016. She emphasized that optometry is never about a single doctor. “I must caution you that the degree that you receive today is not entirely your degree. It belongs to many… your families and key supporters… your future patients.”
Dr. Knight encouraged the Class of 2016 to take specific steps after ICO: pursue relationships with legislators, give back to school and communities, support colleagues and professional associations, and constantly reach out to other health care practitioners. She believes that adversity is “a catalyst for learning” and not to be feared.
Dr. Knight, herself, was honored at Commencement with the Dr. Joseph L. Henry Achievement Award. Other accolades included a Doctorate of Science in Optometry offered to Thomas A. Lawless, OD ’71, and Presidential Medals of Honor given to Charles Brownlow, OD ’71 and Mr. Michael Horstman.
The Class of 2016 has many mentors like these to look up to. They have joined an esteemed group of alumni- the largest of any optometry school in the United States. No one knows the advantages of this network better than Dr. Knight. “You are the best of the best,” she assured. “Know you are prepared for whatever comes your way, but if you need reassurance, you have 40,000 colleagues to call on. When you succeed, we all succeed. Get ready to face the world armed with the teachings, love, and support of one of the best institutions of higher learning in the world.”
Four years can pass by quickly at ICO. However, the memories, bonds, and professional relationships last forever. Congratulations, Class of 2016. Get out there and change the world for years to come!