Over the weekend Purdue Northwest University Northwest awarded 995 degrees during two commencement ceremonies in Westville. Mayor of La Porte Tom Dermody was the keynote speaker.

On Saturday Dermody advised at both ceremonies that Purdue University Northwest (PNW) graduates should be willing to take risks and seek solutions as they begin their careers. Dermody, a La Porte native who served 10 years in the Indiana House of Representatives and was elected mayor in 2019, told graduates that building relationships and finding common ground with others is the best way to make a difference.

“The world does not need another follower. It needs a leader – someone to clear a new path, someone who is not afraid to break the rules,” Tom Dermody said. “Find a cause you care about and be the change. Don’t wait for someone else to lead the charge. Lead the charge yourself and work with others along the way – especially if their views differ from yours.”

The advice to be a leader who seeks solutions was a key point of “Tom’s Toolbox for Life” that Dermody laid out for graduates to navigate their futures. Another was to embrace and seize every day.

“There are only two things employers can’t teach in training. The first is initiative, and the second is positive attitude,” stated Dermody, who shared with graduates that surviving cancer diagnosed when he was in his mid-20s helped him learn firsthand that life can change in an instant. “Your outlook on work, and on life in general, is everything.”

Dermody also advised the PNW graduates to invest in their relationships with people, from roommates to friends and family to co-workers.

“Each of you is fortunate to be sitting where you are right now,” Dermody said. “There are others who would gladly trade places with you. Never forget that. Do what you can to pay it forward by making a difference in someone’s life.”

PNW’s 2021 fall graduating class consists of 995 candidates, including the conferring of one doctoral degree, 218 master’s degrees and 776 baccalaureate degrees. A total of 479 degree honorees planned to participate across the two PNW commencement ceremonies. The university held in-person ceremonies in the H.D. Kesling Gymnasium at the James B. Dworkin Student Services and Activities Complex.