Redefining the Classroom

Lukenda, North, Jakaitis speak during LSSU commencement

Posted: May 6th, 2007

To view a complete slide show of commencement day activities, click here

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Lake Superior State University recognized two longtime friends of the institution as part of commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 5, in the Norris Center's Taffy Abel Ice Arena.

Louis B. Lukenda DDS, from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and retired State Senator Walter H. North, St. Ignace, received honorary doctorates of humane letters during the program, which also featured remarks from student respondent and Laker hockey standout Jeff Jakaitis of Rochester, Minn. In addition, longtime nursing professor MaryAnne Shannon Ph.D. was announced as the recipient of LSSU's Distinguished Teaching Award.

Louis Lukenda addresses LSSU graduates

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"There are very few recognitions that are more appreciated than to be honored by one's alma mater," said Lukenda in accepting his degree. "In thanking you, I want to assure you that despite the fact I sincerely feel this degree is much more appreciated than deserved, I will cherish it forever."

Lukenda, who entertained the audience with tales of braving the elements to go to class by taking the pedestrian ferry that crossed the St. Mary's River, attended LSSU from 1948-50 before heading to dental school in Toronto. He told graduates and their families how he felt better prepared than his fellow dental students because of the personal education he received at LSSU. He charged the graduating class with leaving the world better than how they found it.

"It's all about tomorrow now, all about what you bring to tomorrow," he said. "Now is the time to accept personal responsibility for your actions. Now is the time to dream and make dreams, because dreams are building blocks to reality. Your life is before you; your future is in your hands."

Retired State Senator North challenged students, also, and asked them to remember those who helped them get where they are today.

Walter North receives doctoral hood from
Provost Bruce Harger (l) and Board Chair Chuck Schmidt while
President Betty Youngblood looks on

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"All of us rise on the shoulders of those who went ahead of us," said North, who added that he was proud to be honored "by this great university."

North, who has served on the LSSU Foundation's board of directors for 20 years, noted the improvements to campus in recent years, including the remodeled Shouldice Library, Crawford Hall of Science and Walker Cisler Center, and the new Arts Center.

"The last five years have been pretty tough when it comes to state funding," he noted. "Nevertheless, your professors delivered a quality education to you all. Onward and upward, Lakers!"

In his speech to his fellow students, business administration graduate Jakaitis also stressed the importance of thanking those who helped them achieve their education, although he said sometimes the way to do that is not straightforward. He cited a speech given in January by former Montreal Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden, when his jersey was retired from the team.

Jeff Jakaitis, student respondent

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"In his speech, he asked 'How do I thank you?' I thought it was appropriate for today," Jakaitis said.

Addressing LSSU President Betty Youngblood, the administration, his teachers, support staff, family and friends, Jakaitis asked, "How can we repay you for the time and effort that you put forth for us? The best answer I can come up with…is to find whatever it is that each of us truly loves to do, and do it…Follow your heart and you cannot go wrong."

Jakaitis told his fellow students that their teachers have shown them "what it means to devote your life to something…Never forget those who have helped you discover so much."

He also told students, "Know that you'll always have a home in Sault Ste. Marie and at Lake State."

Youngblood congratulated students on their achievements and encouraged them to always continue their quest for excellence.

"You are well prepared for the world ahead of you," the LSSU president said. "As students, your lives have been changed forever because you chose to study at Lake Superior State University and you chose to pursue a college education. You chose to be successful…You have the knowledge, tools and understanding to make the world a better place."

The 600 graduates who received 670 degrees from LSSU this spring range in age from 19-68 years and represent nearly all of Michigan's counties, as well as 12 states and nine countries.

The degrees awarded included a posthumous degree for Lisa Bock, a student from Bellaire who was killed last October in an auto accident. Bock's degree in business administration was accepted by her parents, Bill and Jan Bock.

The program also featured national anthems for the U.S. and Canada sung by Kt Antler, Sault, Ont., who just finished her freshman year at LSSU. In addition, the Duncan Family of Sault, Ont. provided drums and pipes for the ceremony, as they have for the 43 graduation ceremonies previous to this one. Graduates and their families left the ice arena as the twin-Sault based Native American drumming group, Chi-Geezis, performed "Honor Song." -LSSU-