sealPurdue Graduation Briefs

May 1, 1998

Inspirational vocalist wants to help young people

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Standing ovations are not uncommon for Joy Dilosa Edwards of Gary, Ind ., a graduating senior majoring in sociology at Purdue University.

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Edwards was invited back to Mackey Arena to sing her soulful rendition of the national anthem for a second time after her first appearance drew praise and applause from Purdue basketball fans. Tears flowed freely at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Black Cultural Center when Edwards sang "America the Beautiful."

"My large vocal range is a God-given gift, " said Edwards, who will graduate from Purdue at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16, in commencement ceremonies at Elliott Hall of Music. "Singing fulfills me, but so does helping people." She has no plans for a professional singing career. Instead, she wants to counsel youths and plans to get her master's degree in social work.

Edwards, the student coordinator for the Black Voices of Inspiration, this year received the Louis Sudler Prize for Excellence in the Arts. The Sudler Prize is given to the graduating Purdue senior who displays excellence in the creative or performing arts. Sudler, who was a Chicago businessman, created an endowment that provides a $1,000 cash prize for the winner.

CONTACT: Edwards, home (765) 496-3066; Black Cultural Center (765) 494-3092

Family seeing off 10th Purdue graduate

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- This August there will be a line missing from Richard and Bernadette Raffin's checkbook register for the first time in 25 years a fee check to Purdue University.

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The youngest of the Raffins' 12 children, Theresa, will receive a degree in civil engineering Sunday, May 17, during commencement ceremonies at Elliott Hall of Music. She will be the 10th Raffin child to earn a Purdue degree. At least one of Richard and Bernadette's children have been attending Purdue every year since 1973.

"We're both University of Illinois graduates, so we looked there when our oldest daughter, Maria, was looking at colleges," Bernadette said. "We also visited Purdue, and we really liked the campus. It was compact and the people there made it feel like a small school. Purdue has grown over the years, but it still seems to be focused on providing a good education for its students."

Of the previous nine Purdue graduates, four have degrees from the School of Civil Engineering, four from the School of Consumer and Family Sciences and one from the School of Technology. Two sons with Purdue engineering degrees and one with a engineering degree from Northwestern University work for Richard's construction company in Valparaiso . The other Raffin children live in Chesterton, Ind., Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina and soon, Tennessee.

Several family members will be driving down from Porter County for the ceremony at 2:30 p.m. "Being the youngest, Theresa is very popular in the family a favorite aunt for the little ones," Bernadette said. "I'm thinking we'll have a caravan for the trip down."

CONTACT: Richard and Bernadette Raffin, (219) 462-3254; Theresa Raffin, (765) 743-7738

Purdue grad to launch new company

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue student Kirby Goedde has had a busy year, and it's not likely to slow down for the young entrepreneur who graduates at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 17, from the university's School of Electrical Engineering.

Earlier this spring, Goedde won the 1998 Burton Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition at Purdue with his invention of an automated school locker for disabled students.

Since then, the senior from Evansville, Ind. , has been meeting with patent lawyers, locating parts suppliers, planning a wedding, accepting a job to design flight-control software in Florida and preparing to launch a new company.

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Goedde developed the locker to help a disabled Lafayette student who had difficulty opening a school locker. The device, originally part of Purdue's Engineering Projects in Community Service or EPICS program, uses a key-chain-sized transmitter and a special locking mechanism to unlock a locker from as much as 50 feet away. Soon after installing the locker in Tecumseh Middle School, he had an order from the Lafayette School Corp. for 30 more.

"I'm definitely going to move quickly to get my business going now," he said. "This whole project started with an idea to help someone. It wasn't until I started working on the business plan for the competition that I realized I might have the makings of a real business."

Goedde's future father-in-law, who owns a machine shop in Shelbyville, Ind., will produce the devices, which can fit in any school locker manufactured in the United States. Goedde's fiancee, a 1997 communication's graduate from Purdue, works at the shop and will help organize the production process. The two plan to marry in November. Goedde will manage his young company long-distance, and when not working for his new employer, Harris Flight Control in Melbourne, Fla.

"I hope to deliver my first order to Lafayette by the end of summer," Goedde said. "And I want to keep developing the locker. With any luck I'll find a school in Florida that will let me try out my new prototypes."

CONTACT: Goedde (765) 746-2210; e-mail,

Mother of twins to graduate, continue studies

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Jeanette Cunningham's twins were 2 years old when the Lafayette mom got tired of working for minimum wage and decided to do something about it.

Armed with a GED and her determination, Cunningham came to Purdue in 1993 with the idea of entering a health profession career. She enrolled in the Department of Health, Kinesiology and Leisure Studies and will earn a bachelor's degree in Movement and Sports Science at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16.

"Having good day-care was really important and allowed me to go back to school," Cunningham said. "My husband also helped out a lot in the evenings after he finished his apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers."

Cunningham has completed this stage of her education, but there will be no summer break for her. On May 18, she continues toward her health profession career when she begins clinical studies in a radiation therapy program offered by Ball State University. Cunningham, 26, will spend the next 18 months working primarily with cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

CONTACT: Cunningham, (765) 463-7125

Blind student paves way for science studies

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The vision of a blind student has opened new ways to learn science at Purdue University.

Colleen E. Wunderlich, Joliet, Ill. , came to Purdue in 1993 with a vision to attend medical school and become a psychiatrist. Those plans have changed -- now she hopes to earn a doctorate in industrial organizational psychology -- but along the way, Wunderlich and Purdue faculty and staff have found ways to help blind and visually impaired students "see" the wonders of science.

"One of the things that impressed me about Purdue, when I was visiting campuses, was a willingness to work with me when I said I wanted to take pre-med classes," Wunderlich said. "No other school indicated they would be as supportive about my goals. Throughout my career at Purdue, people have worked a lot of overtime helping me find ways of furthering my education."

The Office of the Dean of Students helped coordinate Wunderlich's educational needs with faculty and department staff members. "At first it was awkward for me and for the professors," Wunderlich said. "Many were very cooperative and helpful, but some questioned my ability to do the work."

After Wunderlich informed them of some of her experiences, staff in Adaptive Programs in the Office of the Dean of Students started organizing meetings between students with disabilities and their instructors.

"Right after registering for classes, a meeting is scheduled with all the professors to let them know that a blind student will be in their class and go over the materials so they all can be ready when the semester starts," Wunderlich said.

Over the past five years, Purdue has improved services for students with disabilities by adding an upgraded computer lab for students with disabilities and speech software for foreign language study. Science textbooks have been translated into Braille. The chemistry department has developed software that uses a popular word processing program to convert printed mathematical and chemical expressions into Braille. The Office of the Dean of Students has started compiling tactile diagrams and graphs.

Wunderlich will graduate at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16, with degrees in psychology and Spanish. After graduation, she has a summer job working for Chicago Lighthouse for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired.

CONTACT: Wunderlich, (765) 495-4763

Compiled by J. Michael Willis, (765) 494-0371; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Journalists who want to cover commencement May 16-17 at the West Lafayette campus will need tickets for the event and should reserve space for camera equipment. Arrangements can be made by calling Roy A. Johnson, associate registrar, at (765) 494-6163, or Mike Willis, Purdue News Service, (765) 494-0371.


Graduating Purdue University senior Joy Dilosa Edwards sings with the Black Voices of Inspiration at the choir's spring concert.
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Theresa Raffin holds a family photo showing her 11 older siblings, just before taking her last final exam at Purdue University. She was to receive a degree in civil engineering on May 17 -- the 10th child of Richard and Bernadette Raffin of Valparaiso, Ind., to earn a Purdue degree. At least one of their children has been attending Purdue every year since 1973. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
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Kirby Goedde's automated locker device for disabled students is designed to fit any school locker manufactured in the United States. A key-chain-sized transmitter can unlock the special locking mechanism from as much as 50 feet away. Goedde, who is receiving a degree in electrical engineering, won Purdue's 11th annual Burton Morgan entrepreneurial competition.
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