The Quad filled with approximately 3,000 graduating Cardinals and their loved ones the morning of May 4 in preparation for the 198th Ball State University Commencement.

A sea of caps and gowns was speckled with smiling faces as graduates joined the 210,000-plus Cardinals who have been in their place.

One of those Cardinals returned to campus in order to congratulate the 2024 graduates on their accomplishments with his commencement address — 35 years after earning his own degree from Ball State.

Stedman Graham graduated in 1989 with a master’s degree in education. As an author of 12 books — two New York Times bestsellers and one Wall Street Journal bestseller — and the business advisor, chairman and CEO of S. Graham and Associates, a management and marketing consulting firm, he had a successful career following his time at Ball State.

Graham emphasized the importance of knowing who you are and what you want to accomplish in his address to graduates.

“When you understand who you are, you get to focus on having the best outcome you could possibly have,” he said. “You can’t lead anyone until you first lead yourself.”

He also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He said if you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music and sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.

Following Graham’s speech, University President Geoffrey Mearns recognized that many of this year’s graduates were in the high school class of 2020 and had yet to have a traditional graduation experience.

“This day is particularly special because, for many of [our undergraduates] four years ago, we were all adjusting to the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Mearns said. “They had commencement ceremonies in their cars, in parking lots or perhaps no ceremony at all. But today, all of the [members] of the Ball State University Class of 2024, you deserve to cherish every moment.”

Mearns pointed out that the tradition of the Ball State commencement ceremony began in the same spot over 100 years ago. His advice to graduates was to set professional goals that will make them and their loved ones proud.

“People generally equate success with financial rewards, with impressive titles and with notoriety. Those are external indicators of success, and I fear that you may find they are temporary and hollow,” Mearns said. “So instead on this day, I encourage you to seek fulfillment.”

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