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Allie LaForce

Allie LaForce, OHIO alumna and Emmy-nominated sports reporter, gave the 3,400 graduates to be kind and work hard.

Photographer: Ben Siegel

Move tassels

2018 graduates turn their tassels to the left during the morning ceremony on May 5.

Photographer: Ben Siegel

Lily Bradley

Undergraduate Commencement student speaker Lily Bradley addresses her fellow graduates during the morning ceremony on May 5

Photographer: Ben Siegel

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Commencement speaker Allie LaForce tells graduates to be kind, work hard and don’t look back

About 3,400 graduates attend Saturday ceremonies

Be kind, surround yourself with good people who make you better and always work hard and don’t look back.

These are the words of encouragement that 2018 Ohio University Spring Undergraduate Commencement speaker Allie LaForce left with this year’s graduating class.

A total of about 3,400 Ohio University undergraduates participated in morning and afternoon Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 5, in the Convocation Center on the Athens Campus.

LaForce, a 2011 magna cum laude journalism graduate from OHIO’s Honors Tutorial College, is a sports color analyst, sideline reporter and studio host for the CBS network. The Emmy-nominated reporter told the graduates that despite feeling the pressure of landing a job out of college, the “real world” is not as bad as it seems. The first advice she gave them was to be kind.

“Be kind to your family, co-workers and friends – even if you’re having a bad day,” she said. “It makes a difference and it makes your life and the lives around you better. My mom told me from day one, ‘Be nice and do the right thing.’”

LaForce told the graduates to always surround themselves with people who make them better, because life is tough enough without being around people who hold you back.

She told the story of how she had to call play-by-play and color on the radio for the first time because her WOUB Radio broadcast partner Tony Castricone faked an illness a couple of hours before a Bobcat’s women’s basketball game in order to force her to become a more well-rounded broadcaster. 

“He knew I needed to learn how to do play-by-play to advance in my career,” LaForce said. “Surround yourself with good people who don’t just give you what you want, but give you what you need.”

LaForce challenged the graduates to work hard and to keep going when things get tough. She told a story about when she was a walk-on for the OHIO Women’s Basketball Team and felt like she couldn’t run any more sprints at the end of a three-hour practice after a full day of classes.

“I looked to my right and my teammate looked me in the eye and started running,” LaForce said. “I thought, it was either let my teammate down or keep running. I ran six more sprints that day. ... Choose to run one more sprint – choose to be better every day.”

LaForce told the graduates that life is tough, but they can handle it because they are Bobcats.

“I don’t care if you are a man, woman, black, white or anything in between,” LaForce said. “Work your butt off and be the best version of yourself. Run those sprints and be the best you. That will make the world better for future generations.”

Before LaForce took the morning stage, first-year President Dr. M. Duane Nellis, who was taking part in his first Spring Undergraduate Commencement, told the graduates that he recalls sitting at his own commencement ceremony and it doesn’t seem that long ago. 

“Soak up this moment, bask in it,” he said. “You deserve to feel proud. You have worked so very hard to get here.”

Dr. Nellis told them to feel confident that their education will serve them well for the road that lies ahead.

“These skills you acquired at Ohio University are transferable, regardless of what job position you hold,” Dr. Nellis said. “They will never fail you. So as you go out into the world, stand tall. You are ready!”

Graduating journalism major Lily Bradley delivered the student commencement speech during the morning ceremony. She is one of the inaugural members of the Presidential Leadership Society, which Dr. Nellis formed this academic year to help advance the priorities and initiatives of the Office of the President. 

Bradley said it was a privilege to serve in the Presidential Leadership Society as well as the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program during her time in Athens.

“The beauty of college and life in general is that you can be whoever and whatever you want to be,” she said. “First and foremost, we take great pride in our treasured university. … there is a true sense of community on the bricks of Athens.”

Bradley told her classmates that excellence is their hallmark and that the University is full of eager students and an outstanding faculty with exceptional ideas and programs that drive the educational mission. She specifically complimented her Scripps College of Communication faculty.

“We are taught by some of the finest instructors in our fields, a statement showcased by the fact that 94 percent of our students graduate with a job or an offer to continue their education,” Bradley said.

She added that she is proud to be a Bobcat because it’s a life sentence.

“They really mean it when they say ‘It’s not four years, it’s for life,” Bradley said. “… We’re a scrappy bunch, compassionate and dedicated, we’re Bobcats for life.”

In the afternoon Commencement ceremony, graduating senior Mercedes Lewis also provided words of encouragement to her fellow graduates.

“We have been working for years to get to this point and today is the day we finally get to celebrate,” Lewis said. “The long days of four or five classes back-to-back, the long nights at ‘Club Alden’ and everything else in between has finally come to this moment. … We’re all here today, not only because someone believed in us, but because we believed in ourselves.”

She said that while growing up as a shy kid, she never imagined that one day she could give the University’s commencement speech. She said it happened because she reached outside of her bubble and grew.

“College does that. It breaks the comfort zones we set and exposes us to different people, cultures, classes and experiences,” Lewis said. “… We didn’t need to travel across the world to grow into a new person, Athens brought all of that to us.”

Lewis finished her talk by reminding her fellow graduates that they are all forever interlinked as Bobcat alumni.

“We are a family and although we may no longer see one another as often, the connections we’ve made will last a lifetime,” Lewis said. “Now it’s time to celebrate.”


Mohammed Alanbar, Saudi Arabia, Engineering and Technology Management:

Alanbar described how the Ohio Program of Intensive English (OPIE) helped him earn his degree and enjoy his college career in Athens.

“I kind of knew a little bit of English, but I had to get used to the academics. There I started feeling like I was at home. Even the culture outside, we had little differences, but a lot more in common. Everybody was so nice to me.”

Abdullah Almoajil, Saudi Arabia, Engineering and Technology Management:

Almoajil said he enjoyed his time at Ohio University and in Athens.

“It feels great, especially when you come to this country and don’t speak English. It felt like home to be honest. It’s been nice. It was a great six years. I tell people that I’m graduating with two degrees, one was for the actual degree and the other was for the experience."

Justine Johnson, Cleveland, Ohio, Interior Architecture:

“I'm excited to be graduating because my journey through college has been rough at times, but also rewarding and fun. I want to get more experience in my field, then attend graduate school with the goal of rebuilding the infrastructure in inner cities like Cleveland.”

Maeve Laughlin, Yellow Springs, Ohio, Global Studies:

Laughlin said she plans to teach English in Ecuador after graduation.

“I’m so happy! I’m really sad to leave Athens, but I’m ready for a break from school. I’m in the Global Learning Center and that is what made me think about teaching and working abroad. I had never really thought about that before.”

Ryan Weber, Galloway, Ohio, Civil Engineering:

“I'll miss the small town feel in Athens, especially being from the Columbus area. I want to eventually work in structural engineering. There is so much you can do with a civil engineering degree that I'm not sure what I'll be doing next, but whatever it is, I just want to enjoy it.”



Related Links

2018 Commencement