December 4, 2021

‘This is where your race starts’: More than 1,700 Purdue University Global graduates take part in commencement ceremonies

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — In August, Aron Lee took part in Purdue University Global commencement ceremonies, having earned his Bachelor of Science degree in health and wellness.

On Saturday (Dec. 4), Lee was back on the graduation stage, this time addressing more than 1,700 Purdue Global graduates who took part in in-person and virtual ceremonies in Elliott Hall of Music on the Purdue West Lafayette campus. It marked Purdue Global’s 12th commencement since its formation in 2018 and the first in West Lafayette.

Aron Lee, a master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force who graduated summa cum laude from Purdue Global earlier this year, provided the keynote address for Purdue Global commencement ceremonies Saturday (Dec. 4) in West Lafayette. Download image

“We have only just begun,” said Lee, a master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force who has served for 22 years and graduated summa cum laude from Purdue Global. “All of those late-night discussion questions, homework assignments, quizzes, group projects and end-of-term surveys got you right here: to the starting line. This is where your race starts. This is where the grind starts.

“You all will walk out of here with an awesome certificate by the decree of the chancellor that states you have the knowledge to do a thing. The grind is going out into the world and doing that thing with success in the face of adversity. Remembering why you are on this journey is going to help you. You are now a benchmark of success. You are at a level to which people want to achieve. Be that example of success. Leave a legacy. Encourage people.”

Two in-person ceremonies and a virtual one took place over the course of the day. Degrees were awarded from the schools of business and information technology, education, general education, health sciences, nursing, social and behavioral sciences, and Concord Law School. There were 769 bachelor’s degrees, 601 graduate degrees, 200 associate degrees, 122 certificates and 23 doctoral degrees (16 Doctor of Nursing Practice, four Juris Doctor and three Executive Juris Doctor).

The graduates reside in 49 states – including 305 Indiana residents – plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands, while nine additional countries were represented: Canada, ChinaHong KongJamaica, Japan, Kuwait, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and Turks and Caicos Islands. Thirty-eight employees of Purdue West Lafayette, Purdue Fort Wayne, Purdue Northwest and Purdue Global are among those who earned a Purdue Global degree or certificate via the Purdue Global education benefit.

The breadth of graduates includes several family connections:

  • A husband and wife from Williamsport, Indiana – Jerry Culvahouse, a steam utilities mechanic at the Bindley Bioscience Center in Discovery Park District at Purdue, and Kim Culvahouse, who has worked as a clerk and teacher aide at Purdue. Both earned their Bachelor of Business Administration through the education benefit program.
  • A husband and wife from Noblesville, Indiana – Matthew Gualdoni, who earned a Master of Business Administration, and Jennifer Gualdoni, who earned a Master of Science degree in instructional design and technology.
  • Siblings Joshua Singer (Bachelor of Science in legal support and services) of Indianapolis and Megan Singer (Bachelor of Science in psychology in applied behavior analysis) of Riverside, California.
Frank Dooley Chancellor Frank Dooley congratulated Purdue Global graduates from 49 states, plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as nine additional countries Saturday (Dec. 4) in West Lafayette. Download image

Chancellor Frank Dooley addressed the graduates – 814 of them in-person and 901 virtually.

“I'm thrilled that we were able to celebrate here on campus, where the history of Purdue began over 150 years ago,” Dooley said. “Can you believe that classes began with only six instructors and 39 students? Look at how far we have come. West Lafayette is a campus with 50,000 students and Purdue Global has another 35,000 students.

“We are grateful to provide a ceremony that brings us all together, no matter where we are around the globe, either virtually or here in Elliott Hall. ... I love that we can remain close through this institution as we commemorate your accomplishments today.”

Dooley noted that over 9,000 Purdue Global students are affiliated with the military, including nearly 5,000 active duty, National Guard and reserve members serving worldwide. Almost 50% are the first in their family to attend college, and about 60% care for a child or other dependent.

“What you have done is so remarkable,” Dooley said. “In addition to completing your education, you dealt with everything else that life throws your way. And in the last year that added COVID to the mix.”

Two Purdue Global graduates performed the national anthem before their respective in-person ceremonies: Lisa Calderon, from San Antonio, Texas, who graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in communication, and Ellen McCullough, from Highland, Indiana, who graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in cybersecurity.

In the days before commencement, Purdue Global hosted various virtual celebratory events, including a photo booth, toast, graduation “shout out” board and social media activities.

A total of 10,924 Purdue Global students have graduated in the last year.

The next Purdue Global commencement is scheduled for May 21 and will take place at the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre in Indianapolis.

About Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global delivers personalized online education tailored to the unique needs of adults who have work or life experience beyond the classroom, enabling them to develop essential academic and professional skills with the support and flexibility they need to achieve their career goals. It offers personalized paths for students to earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree, based on their work experience, desired pace, military service, previous college credits and other considerations – no matter where they are in their life journey. Purdue Global is a nonprofit, public university accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It is affiliated with Purdue University’s flagship institution, a highly ranked public research university located in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue University also operates regional campuses in Fort Wayne and Northwest Indiana, as well as serving science, engineering and technology students at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus. For more information, visit

Writer/Media Contact: Tom Schott, 765-427-1721,

Sources: Frank Dooley

Beth Smith

Aron Lee

Note to Journalists: Photos of commencement, Aron Lee and Frank Dooley are available on Google Drive.

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