With the raising of a canoe paddle from Purdue University Northwest (PNW) alumnus and Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Stephen R. Turner, a sea of graduates donning mortarboards at each of PNW’s three fall commencement exercises shouted, “Paddle your canoe!”

The refrain was a memorable cue offered by Turner during his keynote address to help the undergraduate, master’s and, for the first time at PNW, doctoral degree candidates navigate various obstacles as they embark on a new journey.

Ceremonies held on PNW’s Westville Campus Friday afternoon, Dec. 7 and two on the Hammond Campus on Saturday, Dec. 8 conferred 673 baccalaureate, 131 master’s and two applied doctoral degrees.

Chancellor Medallions were also awarded to undergraduates of each college earning the top grade point average: Dawn Bouton of Crown Point (IN), College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences; Zephania Hill of Hammond (IN), College of Engineering and Sciences; Jens Larson of Portage (IN), College of Technology; Roberto Martinez of Hammond (IN), College of Business; Michelle Zurkle of Crown Point (IN), College of Nursing.

“Envision your next journey as a canoe trip on a river you’ve never seen,” Turner said. “You can choose your river, but you can’t possibly know exactly what you will find on it.”

Turner recounted lessons throughout his own journey as a first generation college graduate, which eventually led to his senior leadership position at Purdue Northwest.

From a bachelor’s degree in psychology to an associate degree in mechanical engineering technology, a master’s degree in education leadership, and finally an MBA, Turner connected his educational path to the log jams, forks and bends he encountered shaping his personal and professional growth.

“I’ve worked in three different public service sectors, held eight very different positions and earned four degrees each in a different discipline. Remember, however, this was not the journey I had planned,” said Turner. “Don’t be satisfied with a float trip. Certainly do not sit on the bank and let the current flow past you.”

“I’ve had an interesting, rewarding and fulfilling career and I want you to know that you can, too. Here’s how: first, decide which river you want to be on, then get into your canoe and … ,” as Turner raised his oar, the chorus rang out one final time, “Paddle your canoe!”