UofL’s May 13 commencement imparted the usual emotions of elation, pride, sense of accomplishment and optimism.

Thousands of cap-and-gown-clad graduates converged at the KFC Yum! Center to pose for family pictures, congratulate classmates, get in line for the processional and, finally, to savor that sweet moment as they crossed the stage and heard their name called.

“Graduates, this is your day,” said Interim President Greg Postel in his commencement speech. “This semester, 3,156 students are receiving proof of hard-earned success: a college diploma from the University of Louisville.”

Although not all graduates take part in commencement, there were more than 2,000 at this semester’s celebration, making it one of the largest in university history.

Here’s a snapshot of a few of the spring 2017 graduates:

Never, ever give up

CEHD sport administration graduate Ryan Dant was diagnosed with a rare disorder at age three. His parents, Mark and Jeanne Dant, were told it was unlikely he would survive beyond age 10. The Dants fought back hard. With persistence and grit — plus medical breakthroughs and community support — Ryan not only survived but thrived.

Jeanne and Mark Dant pose with son Ryan Dant at UofL's May 13 commencement.
Jeanne and Mark Dant pose with son Ryan Dant at UofL’s May 13 commencement.

The 29-year-old, who has referred to UofL as his “dream school,” said some of his fondest memories include working as an equipment manager for the men’s football team.

“It’s a lot of fun to be part of a great athletic program,” said Dant who came to UofL on a scholarship and graduated with a grade point average of 3.5. “I live by the quote ‘never, ever give up.’” said Dant. His incredible story was recounted in detail in this CNN story. It was also reported locally in the Courier-Journal

Victorious Victoria

Victoria Sledge with her daughter, Levi.

Victoria Sledge’s collegiate journey was so beset with obstacles that most people would have simply given up.

The Memphis, Tennessee, native’s unplanned pregnancy in 2011 caused her life to unravel. Beset with extreme morning sickness, she dropped out of college, was evicted from her home and, later, came to Louisville to be near family. She had no place to call home and worried that her rootless life would impact her newborn daughter.

In 2012 Sledge learned about The Family Scholar House, a UofL partner that provides housing for low income, single parents. Sledge started classes, made the dean’s list and was a homecoming queen candidate. Her daughter, Levi, thrived in the UofL early childhood education program.

Sledge, a sociology major in the College of Arts and Sciences, has already accepted a position in Chicago’s school system and will start soon.

“I hope others will see my example and know that they can do it too,” said Sledge. She is the first in her family to get a college degree.

A fine arts first

Marie-Elena Ottman, Miranda Becht and Tom LeGoff are the first graduates to earn the master’s of fine arts degree.

There’s a certain magic to being first and three UofL scholars had that honor as the inaugural class of the Hite’s Master of Fine Arts program. Miranda Becht, Tom LeGoff and Marie-Elena Ottman are the program’s first graduates. The three MFA graduates were hooded by their mentors at the UofL hooding ceremony May 12.

Their art can be seen in an exhibition that runs through May 27 at the Cressman Center for Visual Art.

From refugee to medical doctor

At the School of Medicine’s 4:30 p.m. convocation on May 13 Meliha Hrustanovic-Kadic received her degree. The Bosnian refugee came to the U.S. when she was eight years old and later settled in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

She developed a passion for medicine while serving as a translator for her aging grandfather during hospital visits.

“I was the oldest of my siblings and the oldest of the grandchildren. I found myself riding in an ambulance with my grandfather on a frequent basis. I became his interpreter for every emergency room visit and hospital stay. As his condition unfortunately worsened, my curiosity and passion for medicine grew,” she said.  “I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”

With a medical degree in hand, Hrustanovic-Kadic will continue to be a familiar face at the Health Sciences Campus. She plans to stay at UofL to complete her internal medicine residency.

Photos from the morning commencement ceremony are available here and here

Photos from the afternoon commencement ceremony are available here and here

Photos from the doctoral ceremony and hoodings are available here and here