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Haley Sumner and her dog Ezzie
CommencementPeople

Finding Alternative Ways to Succeed

BY Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON May 10 2019

When Mary Gospel found out she was going to be teaching a student who is blind, she wondered how that was going to work in a major—Communication Sciences and Disorders—that requires so much visual learning.

Then Haley Sumner came to class, and she had her answer.

"I've had Haley in class four times," says Gospel, Butler University Senior Clinical Faculty in Communications. "The only time I really even was thinking about her being vision-impaired was the first class. After that, you just forget because she handles everything so well. Outside of having a dog in the classroom, which is unusual, you just forget. She is such an amazing, strong student, and knows how to advocate for the things she needs to make the material in the classroom work for her."

That's precisely how Sumner wanted it. She has spent her life finding alternative ways to succeed, and she continued that at Butler.

She finished school in four years with a double major in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) and Spanish. Along the way, she was involved in Student Government Association for three years, and  the Butler University Student Foundation.

"I've been able to develop work connections with graduates, and gotten an idea of what life will look like after college," she says. "If it wasn't for those organizations, it would have been harder for me to make connections, and feel comfortable with the next chapter of my life.”

In summer 2018, Sumner did an internship in the Human Resources department at Eskenazi Health. That spurred her interest in working for a large organization, like Eli Lilly and Co. or Salesforce when she graduates. She's now in the interviewing process.

*

Haley Sumner came to Butler from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. Sumner was born three months prematurely, weighing less than two pounds. She’s been blind since birth.

She started in Exploratory Studies, and chose CSD as a major because she had gone through speech therapy when she was young.

"I can't think of a day or even a moment in my life where I thought, 'I wish I could see this right now,'" she says. "I'm so grateful for the experiences I've had. I feel like we're all designed in a unique way."

She has navigated campus with help from her service dog, Ezzie. A text-to-speech machine turned her textbooks to audio. When she had classes that were heavily visual, she relied on tactile formats to feel what she couldn't see.

She says that in one class that dealt with topics such as anatomy and soundwaves, Butler's Student Disability Services office hired older students to draw diagrams she needed for exams and lectures. She has special paper that, when drawn on, makes raised lines, so she can feel what the picture is showing.

Sumner explains that for a drawing of a brain, for example, she can  feel where each lobe is located, and make a square or a circle in her mind, and then try  to put each part together to develop an understanding.

"Once I'm able to gauge where everything is mapped out on the page, then I'm able to make a mental image of it," she says.

*

Gospel says having Sumner in class made her a better teacher. She had to think more purposefully about how, and what, she taught. It forced her to prepare more thoroughly.

In one course, where students were expected to learn phonetic symbols instead of using alphabet letters, Gospel was flummoxed. She was unsure how to possibly make this accessible for Sumner.

Gospel teamed up with Kathleen Camire, Assistant Director of Student Disability Services, and Sumner. Not only were they able to come up with the necessary technology, but the three of them co-wrote a paper that Gospel presented at the American Speech and Hearing Association, about the technology and strategy needed to teach phonetics to a student with vision impairment.

Gospel says Sumner also made an enormous impact on the Butler Aphasia Community, a group of people who have had strokes who come to campus to work on their language skills with Butler students.

"They adored her," Gospel says. "She related to them so well, and they related to her. They saw how she was able to overcome obstacles with a positive attitude and sense of humor. They were inspired by her spirit.

Sumner says she comes at whatever she does with great empathy for others.

"Whenever I hear people complain or I hear them having a bad day, I try to get closer to them and help them find ways to make their situation positive or help them find a positive point in their day," she says.

Haley Sumner and her dog Ezzie
CommencementPeople

Finding Alternative Ways to Succeed

Sumner says she comes at whatever she does with great empathy for others.

May 10 2019 Read more
Maddy Smith and her daughter Arabelle
Commencement

A Mother’s Promise: Against All Odds, Butler Senior is Ready to Graduate

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON May 09 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Madeline Smith was in third grade when she attended her first college class. It was math. Finite, to be exact. And she loved it.

Her mom, Sarah Taylor, didn’t really have a choice but to bring her young daughter with her. She was a 30-year-old college student at Indiana University. She had returned to college years after giving birth to Smith and realizing, if she wanted to stop working 16-hour shifts and provide a better life for her daughter, a college degree would help. So, Taylor packed up her whole house, put everything in storage except for two tents, and headed to Yellowstone Woods in Bloomington, Indiana with Smith. They camped out for two months—Taylor and her 10-year-old. Taylor bused tables, saving up for an apartment. She had a friend watch Smith during most classes, but when she had to, Taylor brought an extra set of hands with her to class. Turns out those hands shot up in the air on more than one occasion when questions were asked. Especially during Finite.

“I knew I had to make a change to make Madeline’s life better in the long-run, and I am very thankful she was a resilient individual, because she powered through some tough times,” says Taylor, who has worked in Human Resources since graduating from IU. “She was my study buddy who would hold up flashcards for me during dinner, while I was doing laundry, everything. She took notes in her own notebook during Economics. She always loved learning and saw firsthand from those days that knowledge is power, and education can transform your life.”

That love of learning was always on display. In elementary school, Smith preferred reading to riding bikes with her friends. And when she brought home her first B at Southport High School in Perry Township, Smith cried hysterically, studying all night, determined to bring her grade back up to an A.

When it came time to make a decision about college, Taylor was biased. She took her daughter back to Bloomington where the two had many fond memories. Smith earned a 21st Century Scholarship—up to four years of undergraduate tuition at participating universities in Indiana—so Taylor knew her daughter had options. They also visited Butler University.

“After being on campus, Butler became a no-brainer,” Smith says. “I loved the atmosphere here. I loved the fact that just six buildings make up the academic section. There was such a community feel right away. With larger institutions, it felt like you had to walk across an entire city to get to class. I didn’t want to be in a department where there are 25 professors and you never meet half of them, and they don’t know your name, and you are just another face. I wanted to be Maddy, and at Butler, it became instantly obvious to me the I would have that type of experience.”

Then, one day during Smith’s senior year of high school, she sat her mom down. She needed to talk to her. Smith was pregnant. They had a long talk—both cried and were scared—but, Smith made one thing clear: her goals would not shift, and she would go to Butler as planned. Taylor explained that she would understand if Smith needed to take a slightly different route, or adjust her timeline. But Smith was adamant. Nothing would change.

Four years later, Smith is on the cusp of graduation. She will join nearly 1,050 other students on Saturday for Butler’s 163rd Spring Commencement. She will fulfill the promise she not only made to her mom, but to herself, and to her daughter, Arabelle.

The Anthropology major and History minor will walk across the stage right on time, just as she planned four years ago. She is a bit more tired, but also incredibly grateful—for the scholarships, support from faculty and family—and proud—for trusting herself and sticking to her plan.

 

‘I’m exhausted’

The timing, actually, could not have been better for Smith. She was determined to not miss any significant class time, and her daughter was due in December, when Butler was closed for Winter Break.

So, Christmas 2015 arrived, she went to the hospital, and Arabelle arrived on December 27, 2015. Two weeks later, school started, and Smith was in class.

“It was really hard. To be honest, second semester of my first year is a blur,” Smith says, “It is recommended that you have six weeks of bonding time with your baby, and I had like two. But, I would have had to take medical leave if I missed school, and I wanted to graduate on time. It was really difficult, and exhausting, and things you don’t think about, like nursing, were messed up, but I knew I had to get through it.”

On top of having a newborn, Smith had to move to Kokomo during her second semester—about an hour from Butler’s campus—because her mom was relocated from Indianapolis to Tennessee for work. She moved in with her aunt and uncle, and then made the hour-each-way commute every day for classes.

Maddy's daughter, ArabelleShe learned traffic patterns very quickly, she says. She also learned time management.

Each day she woke up at about 5:00 AM, got ready for school, got her daughter ready for daycare, drove to campus for classes, and would return home to pick up her daughter from day care at around 5:00 PM. Then it was dinner time, bath time, bedtime for Arabelle, homework time for Smith, and, hopefully at a reasonable hour, bedtime for Smith.

“The way she has juggled everything has amazed me. But that is Madeline,” Taylor says. “I have seen her up until 2:00 AM working on a paper, or sometimes asleep in a book, trying to finish assignments. Her determination is what has gotten her to this point, and her love of learning.”

It wasn’t always clear to Smith that she made the right choice, though. There were times, she says, she missed out on things like parent-teacher conferences, or making snacks for her daughter’s daycare. Or other things, like homecoming, Greek Life, and just a typical social life on campus. Between classes and taking care of her daughter, Smith has juggled several jobs throughout her four years, such as working at a gas station, working at a fast food restaurant, the Butler IT Help Desk, pizza delivery driver, to name a few.

 

Tight-knit community

Elise Edwards has an adult son, and, after a day of teaching Anthropology as an Associate Professor at Butler, she is drained, she says. So, to see Smith, a first-year student who can juggle being a mom and keep up with her studies, amazed Edwards.

“Maddy is an incredibly smart student. She writes well, thinks well, and despite all of the outside pressures she faces, has remained incredibly focused,” Edwards says. “She is very intellectually curious and, miraculously, hasn’t allowed any additional challenges to get in her way.”

Edwards worked with Smith on an independent study project looking at the Anthropology of Africa. The two handpicked ethnographies on Africa and met weekly to discuss the readings. After graduation, Edwards says, she will really miss these conversations.

But it wasn’t just that Smith was able to keep up, Edwards says. She was often ahead of the class. On more than one occasion, Smith would raise her hand and remind the class that rough drafts were due in a week.

Instructor of German Michelle Stigter was the first person on campus Smith told about her pregnancy. Stigter was her First Year Seminar professor, and the two instantly connected.

“I am the child of teenage parents, and I know the odds are stacked against young women who get pregnant in terms of college completion,” Stigter says. “Being a mom and something else is hard enough, but being a mom and a college student is really difficult. Maddy has a tenacity to move forward and make life happen for her and her daughter that has been incredible to witness.”

Most who know Smith, Stigter says, aren’t even aware she has a daughter. She has been determined to be like every other student and not let her family situation influence her college experience.

It was Stigter who nominated Smith for the Betty Murnan-Smith Scholarship—given to single parents enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who have at least a 3.0 GPA.

Stigter nominated Smith in 2017, and since then, Smith has received the scholarship for the last three years.

“Without scholarships I never would have been able to come to Butler and receive the education I have received,” Smith says. “To have people that don’t even know you set up scholarships that you’ll eventually benefit from is something I am so grateful for. But, to then have professors looking out for you, and really advocating for you—it is all just so amazing.”

 

An education for everyone

Betty Murnan-Smith ’44 always loved to learn, too.

Born in Indianapolis in 1921, her father died of leukemia when she was 12. Suddenly left to raise Murnan-Smith alone, her mother moved them into the back room of a dried goods store to save money. The two shared a bed, her mother sewed their clothes, and a curtain enclosed their room.

Murnan-Smith rode her bike to school, always eager to get there, says her son, Timothy Smith. A high school English teacher of hers saw her talent as a writer and asked her if she planned to go to college. She said she couldn’t afford college, but her high school teacher told her she still could go, and introduced her to Butler.

“My mom worked her way through school. She had every kind of job you could imagine. She grinded magnesium for airplane parts, she was a soda jerk, an artist model, a Rosie the Riveter,” says Smith, who now lives in Los Angeles. “She was an uncommon woman of her time, one who was fiercely interested in women not following the well-traveled path but taking another option, and daring to do something great with their lives. She got that from her mother.”

Her favorite job, though, was on campus at Butler helping Professor of English Allegra Stewart grade papers. Stewart told Murnan-Smith that she had so much potential, and inspired her to become a professor, too. Murnan-Smith would go on to name her daughter Allegra, after Stewart.

“At a time when most women were becoming domesticated and looking for husbands, my mom went to Butler and had professors who showed her all the potential she had and all the options available to her—that she really could do anything,” Smith says.

Murnan-Smith would go on to teach at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. Later in her life she established the Betty Murnan-Smith Scholarship for single parents at Butler.

Her children didn’t even know about the scholarship until the end of their mother’s life, but it certainly doesn’t surprise them.

“It resonates with everything we understood about her. She would save pennies and dimes to help those who are trying to fulfill their dreams, despite challenges,” Smith says. “She taught us from a young age the importance of education. We were 12 and she was telling us the unexamined life is not worth living. She wanted to make sure she did her part to provide that for everyone. She actually sounds a lot like Maddy from the bit I have learned about her.”

 

‘A really special day’

Taylor will be at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, watching her daughter graduate. Arabelle will not. She would be bouncing off the walls during a long ceremony like that, Smith says.

But, the day will be an emotional one.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my daughter,” Taylor says. “I have seen first hand all she has juggled with school, but also raising my granddaughter and being a wonderful mother, and sticking to her original goals and not wavering. She has always been so driven, but to see everything come to the final stages, it will be such a special day.”

After graduation, Smith is hoping to go into event planning, but she is still exploring her options. Whatever she ends up doing, though, she hopes to one day help others like her—sort of like Murnan-Smith.

Maddy Smith and her daughter Arabelle
Commencement

A Mother’s Promise: Against All Odds, Butler Senior is Ready to Graduate

Arabelle arrived on December 27, 2015. Two weeks later, school started, and Maddy Smith was in class.

May 09 2019 Read more
Graduates in Hinkle Fieldhouse at Commencement
AcademicsCommencement

Butler to Hold Historic 163rd Spring Commencement

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Apr 26 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—History will be made when Butler University celebrates its 163rd Spring Commencement.

Nearly 1,050 graduates are expected to receive their diplomas—the largest graduating class in Butler’s history—on Saturday, May 11, at 10:00 AM at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

The keynote Commencement speaker, selected by graduating students, will be Penny Dimmick, Professor of Music. An Honorary Doctor of Education will be given to Ena Shelley, longtime Dean of the College of Education, and an Honorary Doctor of Music will be given to the jazz musician Benny Golson.

Dimmick is the Associate Director of the School of Music, and Coordinator of Butler’s Music Education program. She joined the Butler community in 1991 and has served the University in several different capacities, including Head of the School of Music and Faculty in Residence. In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate students at Butler, Dimmick works with children in the Indianapolis Children’s Choir’s Preparatory Choirs, at summer camps at Sunnyside Road Baptist Church, and on mission trips to South America and Asia.

Shelley joined the Butler faculty as an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education in 1982. After serving as Interim Dean twice, she was appointed Dean in June 2005. She introduced the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy, created two IPS/Butler Lab Schools, and established a new home for the COE on South Campus.

Golson started his jazz career about 65 years ago and has traveled the world, playing with renowned performers including Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey, and Johnny Hodges. He has written well over 300 compositions and recorded more than 30 albums. He has composed and arranged music for legends such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross, and Itzhak Perlman. Golson served as a guest artist on campus last spring and immediately connected with Butler students.  

 

 

MEDIA CONTACT

Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
317-940-9257 (mobile: 914-815-5656)

Graduates in Hinkle Fieldhouse at Commencement
AcademicsCommencement

Butler to Hold Historic 163rd Spring Commencement

History will be made when Butler University celebrates its 163rd Spring Commencement.

Apr 26 2019 Read more
Students at Graduation

Graduation Day can be a whirlwind of activity and emotion as you bid farewell to your years as a Butler student. Perhaps you recall the nervous feeling as you processed into the crowded room, hoping you were in the right spot. Maybe it’s the pride you felt as you switched the tassel on your cap from right to left that’s stayed with you. Or the anticipation as the reading of the graduates’ names inched closer to yours.

What you may not recall, however, is the name of that prominent person who delivered your Commencement Address. Here are the last 50 years’ Spring Commencement speakers to help refresh your memory.

 

2018, David Brooks, political and cultural commentator

2017, Dr. John C. Lechleiter, Chairman of the United Way Board Worldwide

2016, Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, CEO, My Stroke of Insight, Inc.

2015, Eva Kor, Holocaust survivor, founder of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center

2014, Brad Stevens, Head Coach, Boston Celtics

2013, John Green, author, vlogger, producer, and educator

2012, Richard Stengel, Managing Editor, Time Magazine

2011, Dr. Bobby Fong, President, Butler University

2010, Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General minister and president of the Christian Church

2009, Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana

2008, Dr. Susan Solomon, Atmospheric chemist

2007, Dr. Eugene White, Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools

2006, James McBride, author and composer

2005, Dr. Robert Funk ’47, MA ’51, Director of the Westar Institute

2004, Mari Evans, poet, writer, and dramatist

2003, Evan Bayh, U.S. Senator, Indiana

2002, The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa

2001, Dr. Bertice Berry, sociologist, author, lecturer, and educator.

2000, Dr. Geoffrey Bannister, President, Butler University

1999, Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, first woman ordained a rabbi in Reconstructionist Judaism

1998, Randall L. Tobias, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Eli Lilly and Company

1997, Frank O’Bannon, Governor of Indiana

1996, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., American author

1995, Dr. James A. Thom ’60, historical author

1994, Raymond Leppard, Music Director and Conductor, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

1993, Evan Bayh, Governor of Indiana

1992, William Warfield, renowned baritone and actor

1991, Stephen A. Briganti ’64, President and COO, Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation

1990, Arpad Goncz, playwright; member, Hungarian Parliament

1989, Dr. Geoffrey Bannister, President, Butler University

1988, Ulric Haynes, Jr., Former U.S. Ambassador to Algeria

1987, Sarah Evans Barker, Judge, United States District Court

1986, John Beversluis, Professor of Philosophy, Butler University

1985, Richard G. Lugar, U.S. Senator from Indiana

1984, James T. Watt, Associate Professor of English

1983, John G. Johnson, President, Butler University

1982, John G. Johnson, President, Butler University

1981, John G. Johnson, President, Butler University

1980, Hugh S. Sidey, Washington Contributing Editor, TIME Magazine

1979, Dr. Russell W. Peterson, President and CEO, National Audubon Society

1978, Norman Cousins, American journalist

1977, Philip Handler, President, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC

1976, Kenneth E. Boulding, Professor of Economics, University of Colorado

1975, The Honorable Barry M. Goldwater, U.S. Senator

1974, Lt. Gen. Felix M. Rogers, Commander, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base

1973, Dr. Loren C. Eiseley, Professor of Anthropology and History of Science

1972, Neil A. Armstrong, Department of Aerospace Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Cincinnati

1971, William D. Ruckelshaus, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency

1970, Victor Borge, musician

1969, The Honorable John A. Volpe, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation

CommencementCampus

Martha Hoover, Patachou founder and owner, to Deliver Winter Commencement Address

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Nov 12 2018

INDIANAPOLIS—Martha Hoover, founder and owner of Patachou Inc., a James Beard Award semifinalist (three times), and one of the 20 Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink (according to Food & Wine), will be the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters and will serve as the keynote speaker at Butler University’s Winter Commencement.

Winter Commencement will take place on Saturday, December 15, 2018 at 10:00 AM in Clowes Memorial Hall. About 135 students are expected to receive their diplomas.

“In choosing honorary degree recipients and speakers, Butler selects individuals whose lives reflect our University’s core values and whose message can positively impact our students,” President James Danko said. “Martha Hoover embodies not only the entrepreneurial spirit we encourage in our students, but the responsible leadership and civic engagement that makes a meaningful difference in our world.”

Hoover has worked to build restaurants that double as vehicles for social change. She has established financial literacy courses for her employees, as well as the Patachou Emergency Relief Fund. In 2012, she established The Patachou Foundation, which has served more than 100,000 healthy meals to at-risk and food-insecure children in the Indianapolis community to date.

Hoover founded Patachou Inc. in 1989 and opened her first restaurant, Café Patachou, in March 1989. Today, the company has six restaurant brands in 14 locations across Indianapolis.

Hoover was a founding board member of Impact 100 of Greater Indianapolis and has served on the boards of the Indiana AIDS Network, Dance Kaleidoscope, and Women’s Fund of Central Indiana.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Hoover was an attorney in the Marion County Prosecutor’s sex crimes division. She is a graduate of both IU Bloomington and the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law at IUPUI.

Butler’s selection of commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients is a result of a nomination process, and subsequent committee review and vetting process.

 

Media contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

CommencementCampus

Martha Hoover, Patachou founder and owner, to Deliver Winter Commencement Address

Indianapolis entrepreneur to receive Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Nov 12 2018 Read more

A Bulldog Abroad

By Brittany Bluthardt '20

Only a few weeks after graduating from Butler University, one student will travel halfway across the world to serve in the Peace Corps in Malawi, an impoverished country in southeastern Africa. During her nearly two-and-a-half-year service, senior Bulldog Alex Gabor will work in the education sector and teach English to children. Although she’ll be far away from Butler University and her home in Wilmette, Illinois, Alex is excited for what life and service across the world has in the future; she thanks Butler for helping her along the way.

“I hope to form relationships with the people in my village that I will be living with,” she said. “Hopefully, I can gain their trust and respect because I feel like without that it’s hard to learn from someone.”

Alex hopes to become fluent in the village’s language and fully immerse herself in the culture. Her transition from Indianapolis to the small village will be a familiar change. Alex was born in the Philippines and lived there for nine years before traveling to the states; she’s used to moving around.

“Moving around is such a big part of me that I will be able to manage well compared to other people that haven’t had that experience,” she said. “So, I feel like it won’t be that bad, but I will definitely be homesick.”

Nearly four years ago, Alex didn’t know what she wanted to study or where she wanted to go. She stumbled upon Butler’s name and decided it was the one - she hadn’t even stepped foot on campus. After enrolling in an exploratory course, she sat in on an upper-level psychology class and discovered her passion for research. From then on, Alex threw herself into undergraduate research any chance she could.

“Being involved in research has given me such good experience, not only for my professional self, but for my personal self,” Alex said. “Butler has opened so many doors for me.”

Alex had experience in undergraduate research early in her college career which prepared her for future presentations across the country. Along with presenting at the Undergraduate Research Conference on Butler’s campus, Alex has traveled to Chicago, Milwaukee, Maryland, and, soon, San Francisco to share her knowledge.

“My research in psychology, I think, made me a really competitive applicant to serve in the Peace Corp.”

During her time at Butler, Alex took full advantage of the resources available to her on campus, from receiving resume help at the Internship and Career Services office to going to as many events, with free food, as possible. Along with taking courses for her two majors in psychology and Chinese and her minor in neuroscience, she was involved in Student Government Association, a sorority, volunteer work, and the Asian Culture Enthusiasts club. Alex kept herself busy and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“When I leave Butler, I’ll miss seeing the same people,” she said. “I’ll miss being around the people. It’s the vibe, the energy. You know when you’re on campus, you know?”

 

Alex Gabor
CommencementPeopleCampus

A Bulldog Abroad

Senior graduate Alex Gabor will fully immerse herself in a new culture, far away from her second home on campus.

Alex Gabor

A Bulldog Abroad

By Brittany Bluthardt '20

Perseverance and Patients: A 23-Year Journey to Graduation

By Rachel Stern

When Trent Tipple was at his low point, living in Indianapolis, Indiana, experiencing nose bleeds during class, suffering memory loss while trying to study for tests, juggling pre-med classes with daily dialysis treatments, little did he know this was just the first of three major low points in his life.

There was the lymphoma diagnosis. Then the kidney failure. Again. And a kidney transplant. Again.

But to hear Tipple tell it, these are all moments that have shaped an amazing life. So far. Because, let’s be honest, Tipple has defied death approximately three times. And, in his words, he feels “full of gratitude.”  

“I have learned to treasure each day and never ignore what is right in front of me,” Tipple says. “I try to remember that the relationships and memories are what actually matter and, as cliché as it is, tomorrow really isn’t guaranteed.”

But there is one thing nagging at Tipple. He hasn’t technically graduated from Butler University, where he was an undergraduate biology major. All of those dialysis appointments didn’t stop him, though, let’s make that clear.

It was that darn beeper.

Tipple, who enrolled at Butler in the fall of 1991, was on track to graduate in 1995. He was 19 credits shy and had applied to Indiana University’s School of Medicine. But, then, that beeper started going off and he had to answer it.

Because Tipple was on the kidney transplant list, he always had a beeper on in case a transplant arrived. After three years, his beeper went off. It just so happened to be during his last semester, senior year. So, technically, he never graduated.

That’s all about to change.

 

Always Interested in Medicine

Tipple grew up in Wabash County, Indiana. Farm country as he refers to it.

Long before the constant trips to the doctor, he had an interest in helping people by being a physician. Pretty ironic, he says. He was always interested in the ability to help others, and working in medicine gave him the opportunity to blend his interest in science with that desire. 

When Tipple was a sophomore in high school he stepped foot on Butler’s campus for the first time as part of a youth event. He was drawn to the campus’ small size and intimate setting.

“Everyone I came across was just nice,” Tipple says. “That first encounter made me familiar with the school and gave me a certain comfort level. I was attracted to the smaller size and the opportunity to get a well-rounded education beyond just science-based courses.”

Turns out the smaller setting would be crucial for many reasons. Tipple was diagnosed with chronic renal disease before his freshman year at Butler. He applied early to Butler, was accepted, and enrolled. With his disease came several trips to the doctor every week. Tipple knew going to Butler would enable him to continue down his desired pre-med path, while also being physically close to the downtown campus of IU Medical Center, as a kidney transplant was what he would eventually need. Tipple felt a school the size of Butler would be more willing to accommodate his specific needs.

“I knew I would be in and out of certain classes due to doctor’s appointments and, at any point, might need to miss class or assignments,” Tipple says. “At a smaller school, it is much easier to form personal relationships and communicate about my specific needs and situation. I think that would be much harder to do at a larger university.”  

 

Determined to Follow His Dreams

Trent at Butler with fraternity brothers.

Jim Shellaas remembers laying eyes on Tipple for the first time. Tipple was a freshman. Shellhaas was Tipple’s academic advisor, and, right away, something was different.

“He showed up to our first meeting with his mother,” says Shellhaas, who retired two years ago after working at Butler as a biology professor. “Now don’t get me wrong, his mother was a lovely person, but most freshmen don’t come to their appointments with their parents. She was there to explain Trent’s medical condition.”

From that first meeting, Shellhaas says, it was clear that Tipple was a determined young man. And Shellhaas’ first impression never changed over the course of four years.

“He had a dream and he was focused and no matter what, he wasn’t going to let go of it,” Shellhaas says. “It is hard enough to be on a pre-med track when a student is fully healthy. But to do that with a health condition like Trent’s, you have to be special and he is special. He had a goal in mind, plugged along, and never lost sight of it.”

Barb Howes recalls a student who was extremely responsible and always showed up to work at the Science Libraries with a work ethic that stood out. Howes has interacted with thousands of students during her time at Butler, but Tipple stands out.

“No matter what was asked of him, he did it, and he always had a wonderful attitude,” she says. “You never would have known that he was dealing with all of the dialysis, and the pain. It amazes me that he was able to remain so positive, despite having to face so much and juggle so much as a young person.”

 

Nothing Could Stop Him

After being on dialysis for two-and-a-half years, and after seven surgeries due to dialysis-related complications, Tipple’s beeper finally went off. He would later learn that a woman named Shiela, who’s family decided that she would be an organ donor, enabled him to become a kidney transplant recipient that January day in 1995. But, it wasn’t that simple.

Though he walked in his commencement ceremony, technically, Tipple did not graduate from Butler because of the timing of the transplant surgery and the recovery associated with it. He was 19 credits short.

He did, however, make the most of his time spent around the physicians he still hoped to one day be. “You meet tons of patients and they all impact you in different ways, but Trent stuck out and always will stick out,” says Sharon Moe, professor of nephrology at Indiana University School of Medicine, who first met Tipple when he was a patient at IU Medical Center. “He was just a smart, inquisitive, sharp young man.”

Moe learned that Tipple wanted to attend IU School of Medicine when he was a patient. Tipple also worked in Moe’s lab when he was a student at Butler. She decided to arrange a meeting between Tipple and the head of the Medical School’s admissions committee.

“I learned later that those conversations I had, thanks to Dr. Moe, were key for me ever getting in to med school and achieving my dream of becoming a physician,” says Tipple. “I am so thankful for people like Dr. Moe who believed in me and went out of their way to vouch for me and look out for me. They changed the course of my life.”

“Trent was networking, so to speak, or creating strong relationships, before that was even a thing,” Shellhaas says. “Instead of feeling sorry for himself when he was in the hospital, he was thinking about his next move and how he could achieve his dreams. He is an amazing person.”

He was accepted into IU’s School of Medicine in the summer of 1995, even though he didn’t have an undergraduate degree.

 

The Struggles Continue

When it was time to head to medical school, Tipple had to, well, learn how to learn again, he says. A fraternity brother from his Butler days, Doug Towriss, was already a medical student at IU. He tutored Tipple for well over a year.

“He taught me what it was to know something, versus being familiar with it,” Tipple says. “If you can’t write it down, you don’t know it. That was his big thing. A lot of time was spent at the chalk board with me writing down pathways, lists, and that type of thing from memory. He didn’t have to do that but he wanted to help me get caught back up.”

Tipple ended up graduating from medical school in 2000. He completed a general pediatrics residency in 2003 and a fellowship in neonatal-perinatal medicine in 2006 at The Ohio State University. By 2006 he was an attending neonatologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

But, things weren’t all smooth sailing.

In 2008, he was in Vienna for a conference with his wife and two children. In retrospect, he had been experiencing headaches for a few months, but that is just in retrospect. They wandered through the Swarovski store looking at all the jewelry. Then, all Tipple remembers is his world went black and the loud store went silent. He was 35 and experienced his first seizure.

He was rushed to the hospital, eventually made his way back to Ohio, and on Christmas Eve 2008, he was officially diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. Technically speaking, he had post-transplant lymphoma. It is a kind of lymphoma only seen in transplant patients. The cruel irony? While Tipple took powerful medications to prevent his body from rejecting his kidney transplant 13 years earlier, those same medications kept his body from recognizing the cancerous cells and eliminating them. Those same cells actually allowed the tumor to form in the first place.

Trent with his cousin who donated a kidney.

This type of lymphoma carries an average 2-year survival rate of less than 10 percent around the world. But, Tipple’s oncologist at OSU had developed an experimental therapy that showed promise in the six patients who used it prior to Tipple.

Three weeks after starting the therapy, the tumor that had been the size of a walnut was gone. And within six months, there was no evidence of the active disease at all. Tipple was in remission. “It was honestly a miracle,” Tipple says. “I really thought I was going to die. I thought that was it and I just could not believe I was in remission. It is impossible.”

But, Tipple’s story does not end there.

One year after his seizure in Austria, the kidney that he had received about 15 years earlier failed. Tipple was back on dialysis.

“I was feeling devastated. I was angry and frustrated. But yet again, I had the amazing support of those around me,” Tipple says. “My wife put everything in perspective when she reminded me that a year earlier we thought I was going to die and said we will do whatever it takes.”

After 15 months of daily dialysis in their home, Tipple was back in the hospital for his second kidney transplant in 2011. This time, he knew the donor. “My cousin is a police officer outside of Seattle. She called me one day and said she was coming to Columbus to finish testing because she was informed that she was a match,” Tipple says. “How do you thank someone who says that?”

She was a match and Tipple had his second transplant on Aug. 2, 2011. Since then, things have been great, he says. But then there is that elusive degree from Butler.

 

Getting that Piece of Paper

Travis Ryan met Tipple about five years ago. He didn’t know much about him, but invited him to Butler’s campus to speak to a seminar class about potential opportunities to pursue research projects. “I had no idea about his background, but I knew he had a ton of experience in the research field and thought, as a Butler graduate, he could inspire our students,” says Ryan, who is the Biological Sciences Department Chair at Butler. “When we spoke after his talk and I learned about his background, and I remember thinking we should really look into trying to get Trent his official degree. He embodies everything Butler is about.”

Tipple was extremely excited about the idea.

“It always came up in job interviews and things like that,” he says. “But more than that, I know it is just a piece of paper, but it really means something important to me. My time at Butler was extremely valuable and meant a lot to me and to know that I officially graduated would mean a lot.”

Ryan worked with many people at Butler to make it official. Many courses that Tipple completed at IU’s School of Medicine, it ended up, could be counted toward the credits he was missing at Butler.

After 23 years, Tipple will be officially graduating from Butler.

 

Full Circle

Trent with his family on a trip to Germany in 2008.

Tipple tries to get back to Indianapolis, and specifically, Butler’s campus at least once a year. He usually returns for a basketball game or two, and comes each May for the Indianapolis 500.

Unfortunately, he won’t be here for the spring commencement ceremony on May 11. It is a bit harder now. In 2014, he started working at the University of Alabama at Birmingham as an associate professor. He is Director of the Neonatal Redox Biology Program and his work has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 2007. Tipple also serves as the Director of Neonatology Faculty Development and Program Co-Director of Neonatal-Perinatal Fellowship Program.

“After everything, I am doing what I love. I am teaching, I have a research lab, and I also see patients. I love doing all of that and it is exactly what I always wanted to do,” he says. Tipple plans to be back in Indianapolis at the end of May for the Indianapolis 500. He will be stopping by Butler’s campus. And this time, he will be picking up a diploma.

“It feels great to just come full circle after everything,” Tipple says. “I appreciate everything Butler did for me and with all I have been through and all the people who supported me and were there for me, everyone really made this happen.”

 

Images
Feature: Trent with his wife at medical school graduation (left). Tren with his son at a Butler Basketball game (right).
Top: Trent at Butler with fraternity brothers.
Middle: Trent with his cousin who donated a kidney.
Bottom: Trent with his family on a trip to Germany in 2008.

 

Trent Tipple MD
CommencementPeopleCampus

Perseverance and Patients: A 23-Year Journey to Graduation

After two kidney transplants and a battle with cancer, Trent Tipple M.D. will finally graduate.

 

15 Things You May Not Know about Spring 2018 Commencement

  1. The Real Deal
    Every single graduate receives their actual diploma (if they have completed their degree requirements) as they walk across stage. For logistical reasons, most universities issue fake diplomas on the day of graduation.
     
  2. Like a Pro
    The stages in Hinkle are built in less than 24 hours. Professional stage hands and sound engineers from Clowes Memorial Hall do the set up and tear down for commencement each year.
     
  3. So You Think You Can Walk?
    Michelle Jarvis, Associate Provost and a dance faculty member, helped to choreograph the processional on to Hinkle’s main floor.
     
  4. Crowded House
    Hinkle Fieldhouse’s floor can seat up to 1,200 graduates, 80 musicians, and up to 65 VIP for the ceremony.
     
  5. Take a Seat
    All the chairs set up on the main basketball floor and in the Efroymson Family Gym are zip tied together for safety, and each will contain a bottle of water and a program for the graduates and guests.
     
  6. “I Majored in Love. No, really.”
    There is a member of the class of 2018 who majored in Love as part of the individualized major program.
     
  7. Kellies E. Murphy
    This year’s graduating class has 963 participants, two of whom are named Kelly E. Murphy.
     
  8. All In the Family
    There are more than 17 Butler faculty and staff members who have family members graduating (spouses, children, and in some cases multiple children).
     
  9. The Year of the Symphony Orchestra
    Every other year, the Butler Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and the Wind Ensemble take turns performing at each Spring Commencement. This year will be BSO’s turn under the direction of Richard Auldon Clark.
     
  10. Butler Sing
    Every year, the School of Music’s Chorale performs at all three Academic ceremonies: Convocation during Welcome Week, Winter Commencement, and Spring Commencement.
     
  11. Jaguars Helping Out
    The IUPUI ROTC will serve as the color guard at this year’s ceremony.

  12. One in Three
    Of the students receiving their graduate degrees at this year’s ceremony, 34% already hold a bachelor’s degree from Butler.
     
  13. How Do You Pronounce That?
    More than 40 staff and student volunteers will help to make commencement a success this year. Two of the volunteers–Professors Scott Bridge and Ann Bilodeau–will serve as Announcers of Names by reading each graduate’s name as they walk across stage. Bridge and Bilodeau prepare by practicing for days from an excel spreadsheet with phonetic pronunciations. If they are uncertain, they have been known to contact the graduate to confirm how they’d like to be announced.
     
  14. Harry Potter-esque
    The flags that are part of the Commencement processional are called Gonfalons and are modeled after heraldic banners used by city states and guilds in medieval Italy (and by the houses in the Harry Potter series).
     
  15. Go Dawgs! No Really, You Gotta Go!
    Butler Baseball plays at 2:00 PM on Commencement day. Senior players will graduate first, then go suit up for their game. 
Commencement
CommencementCampus

15 Things You May Not Know about Spring 2018 Commencement

What do Harry Potter and the class of 2018 have in common? Read on. 

Pursuing Her Passion

By Meg Liffick

Graduating Senior Mariam Saeedi grew up in Fishers, Indiana, just up the road from Butler University. Like a lot of kids, she really loved being creative and especially loved art. In high school at Hamilton Southeastern, she took all the art classes they offered and pursued as many opportunities as she could to be creative.  

While she has a passion for artmaking and an obvious talent, when Mariam chose her major before starting her first year at Butler, Art wasn’t even on her radar. “I originally came to Butler because I wanted to be a teacher. I had heard great things about the College of Education. After my first semester, I realized that it wasn’t the right path for me. I felt like I was missing something.”

Like so many college students, Mariam switched her major her freshman year. This time, she chose Marketing.

But again, after taking a few classes, she still wasn’t confident she was on the right path. She had a nagging feeling that wouldn’t go away. One day as she was browsing through the course list for the Art+Design major in the Jordan College of the Arts things became clear. “I wanted to take all of those classes. I realized what I was missing was an opportunity to be really creative and express myself, and I found it in those classes.”

In the Art+Design program, Mariam was able to take coursework that explored different mediums of expression, and in doing, so she found her voice.

“During my time here, I’ve learned about myself. I don’t want to be somewhere where I’m creating what everyone else is doing. I want to create for myself and be an individual.” At Butler, Mariam found the courses, mentors, and opportunities to do just that. She forged strong relationships with her classmates and her instructors, and these relationships inspired her and challenged her to be her best.

“When I was younger, I knew I always liked art, but I never imagined it would turn into something I’d do all of the time. I was more interested in finding a `practical, reasonable career path.’ It all grew on me as I found myself more,” says Mariam.

After graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art+Design, Mariam will begin a prestigious Orr fellowship. After interviewing for months, she was selected with other top seniors from Indiana and Ohio to join the post-graduate experience dedicated to creating a foundation of career success through coursework, professional mentoring, and a full-time, salaried position. Awarded each year to an elite group of graduates, the Orr fellowship has launched the careers of some of the most accomplished young professionals in the city and beyond.

“People don’t think of the arts as a stable field, and I think they are scared to pursue creative paths.” But in finding her major, Mariam found herself. She proved that creativity and a practical career path are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, passion is critical to long term success.

“Loving what you do it the best motivation. It’s so much easier to succeed when you are really passionate about something.”

 

Mariam Saeedi
CommencementPeopleCampus

Pursuing Her Passion

When Mariam Saeedi '18 found her major, she found her voice.

Mariam Saeedi

Pursuing Her Passion

By Meg Liffick

A Snapshot of Something Bigger

By Brittany Bluthardt '20

“This story is only a snapshot of something bigger, genuine, and unique” Butler University senior, and soon to be graduate, Nikki Miceli said as she introduced her capstone project, “Up North.” The video follows with snapshots of her smiling family members, days in the water, and some traditional campfire singing. Clip after clip, Nikki captures the little moments her family celebrates every summer at their cabin in northern Wisconsin. Two years ago, Nikki didn’t know the random footage she took while on vacation would turn into a 16-minute short documentary about her family’s history and legacy. When Nikki came to Butler University, she wasn’t sure what to expect or where to go first. She just jumped in.

Nikki came to Butler because she loved the feel and energy of campus, and it was the first college campus she didn’t get lost on. Beginning as an exploratory major, she tried a little bit of everything and strayed away from everything she knew she didn’t like. Nikki was certain of one thing: she loved to make videos.

“I like video because it’s a more detailed photograph,” she said. “My family makes fun of me because I always have a camera out, but I tell them, ‘In 10 years, you’re going to really like this footage and see how you acted, what we looked like.’ You see so many more intricate, small, wonderful moments with video than you do with photography.”

Nikki and her freshman year roommate made lip sync covers to popular songs in their dorm room, then she would edit the footage with iMovie and upload it to their Youtube channel. At the time, Nikki didn’t think much of it until one video of her singing to “Hakuna Matata” gained over 4,000 views. With the help of her counselor who urged her to pursue video work, she eventually found a home in the college of communication.

Flash forward three years and Nikki will soon be graduating with degrees in digital media production and strategic communication. She’s completed multiple internships with companies like the Big East Digital Network and Webstream Productions, but her greatest experience was found in the heart of campus. As a video intern for Butler University’s Marketing and Communications office, Nikki connects with people and tells their story through Instagram.

“These people at Butler are so dang incredible,” Nikki said. “They are, honestly, the most passionate and caring people you’ll ever meet. I’ve seen that through this internship the most. I’ve learned about everyone’s true, genuine story and excitement about why they love Butler. I just love it.”

Although Nikki pushed herself to complete multiple internships, study abroad in Australia, complete two majors, and have room for a social life, her biggest challenge was gaining self-confidence. Her parents, one an accountant and the other a physical therapist, have supported her throughout her career but couldn’t help. Nikki’s creative side is unique, and she knew she had to work hard to be successful and find a job after college. Rather than change her major or redefine herself, Nikki took the challenge and reached her goals.

“I know what makes me happy,” she said. “Some people told me you go to school to find out who you are, and I thought, ‘No, college only solidified who I was.’ I knew who I was beforehand.”

Nikki took advantage of any opportunity presented to her. She helped create the newest Butler commercial through her internship on campus, and although it was stressful and a lot of work, she doesn’t regret taking on the challenge.

“The commercial project kick-started my confidence and made me realize I have a place here,” she said. “I think Butler and the community of care will stick with me for the rest of my life.”

She said she’ll miss Butler’s tight-knit community, the people, and her experiences, but she is ready to move on. Nikki is unsure where she’ll land after college, but knows she’ll continue making videos and telling stories.

 “I’m confident now -- watch me kill it.”

 

 

Nikki
CommencementPeopleCampus

A Snapshot of Something Bigger

Senior Nikki Miceli uses her experience on campus to tell the stories of others. 

Nikki

A Snapshot of Something Bigger

By Brittany Bluthardt '20

No Literary Grandma Moses

Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

from Spring 2017

In May 2018, I will have completed all the requirements for an MFA in Creative Writing from Butler University and be preparing to graduate. And like so many students, I’ve been asked countless times: What are you going to do with that degree?

My usual answer is that I’m going to have an interesting last quarter of my life. I’ll be 59 by the time 2018 commencement rolls around, so I’m not looking for a career. I have no expectations of becoming a literary Grandma Moses.

I went through the MFA program (30 classroom credits, plus thesis) because I wanted—and got—a great education. I enjoy writing stories about reprobates and other morally ambiguous people—a woman who fled her marriage after 9/11; a meth addict who thinks he’s on a reality show; a recent graduate who takes a job writing scam emails. So that’s what I did.

Over two years as an MFA student, I wrote a play, a movie script, at least a half-dozen short stories (three of which have been published), and a handful of prose poems and flash fiction stories. I learned alternative forms of storytelling and how to write a non-fiction book proposal, read brilliant authors I never would have known about otherwise, and gained insights about writing and storytelling from exceptional faculty and visiting writers.

When I was a kid, I wrote a lot of fiction. Then I stopped. I don’t remember why. The MFA program motivated me to write again, and it enabled me to have my work critiqued by highly accomplished professors and classmates who make up for in talent and insight what they lack in age.

If you’ve ever thought about going back to school—whatever your age—I highly recommend the experience. And if you’re ever in a bookstore or browsing Amazon.com and see a novel about a racist obstetrician who microchips babies so he can track their movements as adults, I hope you’ll buy it.

AcademicsCommencement

No Literary Grandma Moses

"If you’ve ever thought about going back to school—whatever your age—I highly recommend the experience."

by Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

from Spring 2017

Read more

It’s Spring—Batter Up! Tyler Houston ’18 Baseball Player

Hannah Hartzell ’18

Tyler Houston '18 was 7 years old when he first visited Butler University. A Finance major from Brownsburg (Indiana) Houston frequented Butler’s sports camps as a child.

So when the time came to choose a school for himself, Butler immediately came to mind. “I definitely wanted a small school,” he said. “When I came for a tour of the campus, it was everything I remembered. I could see myself here.”  

More specifically: He could see himself as a student athlete here.

“I had an opportunity to play baseball and accomplish my academic goals,” he said.

That’s exactly what Houston has done. After a standout, first-year season, Houston was named second team All-BIG EAST. In spring 2017, he was named first team All-BIG EAST and led the Bulldogs in home runs. However, Houston has developed more than just his athletic ability.

“The first two years were pretty big adjustments,” Houston said. “Once I settled in though, I got better at managing my time.”

“The business program is amazing,” he said. “I’m in a Portfolio Management class right now and I’ve gotten really into investing stocks. Before, I didn’t really understand what that was.”

He has also grown as a leader.

During his first year at Butler, Houston said a senior baseball teammate took the time to mentor him.  “Having that mentor was great,” Houston said. “Now I’m in his shoes and I get the chance to do the same thing for younger athletes.”

In the process, Houston said he has found lifelong friends.

“My favorite part is being around the guys,” he said. “The fun atmosphere is incredible.”

As far as baseball, well he’s not quite done with that either. “Our goal this year is to compete, qualify, and win the BIG EAST tournament,” he said. “And if the opportunity [to play baseball post-collegiately] presents itself, I might pursue that.”

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