Jaymes and Jayce Fuller, 9-year-old twins, shouted for their older sister's attention, waving frantically at the 21-year-old about to receive an associate's degree in business as a member of the first class to graduate from Lourdes University.
PHOTOS: Lourdes 54 Commencement ceremony
Brittnie Kaiucki -- with the twins, her mother, and boyfriend, Dirk Voogdd, who flew in from the Netherlands for commencement, watching -- was one of the first students to cross the stage during the Saturday afternoon ceremony at Toledo's SeaGate Centre.
The former Lourdes College, which achieved university status last year, conferred about 375 bachelor's, master's and associate's degrees during the 2 1/2-hour ceremony.
Lourdes College, founded in 1958, had 53 graduating classes.
Commencement speaker Dr. Elizabeth Ruppert, who, along with Robert Maxwell, received an honorary degree, said the community is "just beginning to reap the benefits of a university status."
Dr. Ruppert began her career in academia in 1965 as an assistant professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University, and today is professor emeritus of the University of Toledo's College of Medicine, the former Medical College of Ohio. Mr. Maxwell is a retired executive with the former Lathrop Co. and the company that bought it, Turner Construction.
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Dr. Ruppert told the graduates that "you have become a very elite group. ... The reality is, we're expecting great things from you. ... And there's some responsibility that comes along with that."
The commencement, although the first for Lourdes as a university, was the last for Robert Helmer, its president since 2003. Mr. Helmer, who is leaving to become president of Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, was recognized for his service during his 16 years as a professor and administrator.
After the ceremony, graduates Elizabeth Zacharias, 27, of Sylvania and Ruth Wyse, 25, of Toledo, who received a bachelor of science in nursing degrees, said they were excited. "It's a sigh of relief we're done," Ms. Wyse said.
The next step is taking their state board exams, they said.
Melanie Lannen, 35, of Elmore, who also received a bachelor's degree in nursing, finished her classes in December and has since been working at Advanced Speciality Hospital in Toledo. She plans to go back to Lourdes in a year or two to start working on a master's.
The ceremony was bittersweet for Ms. Lannen, who was accompanied by her husband, four children, father, sister, niece, and nephew.
"It was sad for me because my mom's not here," she said, explaining that her mother died recently and "always wanted me to be a nurse."
Tammy Lynne Keaton, Ms. Lannen's sister, said she was "very proud" of her sister because she "struggled as a single mom ... through the program."
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