More than 1,600 students graduate at Spring Commencement

Commencement "Sometimes the first step onto the staircase ends up being the biggest step of our lives," said Kadori Ngirabakunzi, who received a B.S. in Nursing on Saturday.

University Marketing + Communications

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – More than 1,600 students were honored at Northern Kentucky University’s Spring Commencement this weekend at BB&T Arena.

Commencement exercises were held at 10 a.m. Saturday for graduates of the College of Education and Human Services, the College of Health Professions, and the College of Informatics.

Commencement exercises were held at 3 p.m. Saturday for graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Haile/US Bank College of Business. Commencement exercises were held Friday evening for graduates of Chase College of Law.

Thousands of people filled BB&T Arena to celebrate the students’ achievements and the culmination of an important chapter in their lives.

“Today also represents the beginning of a new chapter, when possibilities and choices are endless. And so it is time for you to make things,” said NKU President Geoffrey S. Mearns. “You will make dreams come true for yourself and for others. After all, life is about making things. It is about making a difference. Pursue your dreams with passion and with courage.”

Students and their families also heard from the Hon. John Gleeson, retired U.S. District Judge from the Eastern District of New York; NKU alumna Regan Forman (’93), Vice President of Creative Strategy & Planning at Nickelodeon; and from two of their peers.

All urged the newly minted graduates to be fearless in the pursuit of their dreams.

"Failure is underrated,” Gleeson said. “If you don't fail, you aren't pushing yourself hard enough."

After Forman graduated from NKU in 1993, she was initially too afraid to pursue her dream of working in Hollywood.

“Thankfully, we’re not locked into most of the decisions that we make,” she told the graduates. “Have faith in yourself. Have faith in your abilities. Know that you are enough. If you are sitting here today, you have earned it.”

For Kadori Ngirabakunzi, a single mother of three, the simple prospect of returning to college filled her with fear.

But in 2013, she stepped onto the proverbial staircase, in the words of Martin Luther King. Jr., and found a home at NKU. She received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing on Saturday and plans to work as a nurse.

"Sometimes the first step onto the staircase ends up being the biggest step of our lives,” Ngirabakunzi told her fellow graduates.

Daniel Ginn found a family at NKU – and he urged his fellow graduates to hold that family close no matter where life takes them.

Ginn received a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership on Saturday and plans to pursue a master’s degree.

“Carry your Norse heart proudly,” he said.

For more information, visit