Vigo County Health Commissioner Dr. Darren Brocken told Indiana State University graduates they will have choices every day, and those choices will define their character.
“The right thing to do will not always be the easiest thing to do, I can promise you that,” he said during Saturday’s commencement ceremonies at Hulman Center.
But the right thing to do “will invariably be the right thing to do,” he said. He also believes that success is not measured on a stage, but in the mirror.
Brucken, a 1993 ISU graduate, was the alumni speaker at two undergraduate ceremonies Saturday. University president Deborah Curtis thanked him for his “tremendous support” during the course of the challenging COVID pandemic
ISU conferred 1,882 degrees at spring commencement ceremonies Friday and Saturday at Hulman Center.
Among those degrees, 1,427 were undergraduate and 455 were graduate students – 97 doctoral degrees, 23 educational specialist degrees, 324 master’s degrees, and 11 graduate certificates.
The graduates are from 41 US states and nine countries. There were three ceremonies, a graduate commencement Friday and two undergraduate ceremonies Saturday.
This year, there were no guest limits or seating restrictions, although the traditional handshakes on stage did not take place as a COVID precaution.
During his speech, Brucken praised the efforts of public health and all healthcare workers — in Vigo County and beyond — during the pandemic.
Those in public health, including the Vigo County Health Department, were responsible for mass testing, mitigation strategies, education, contact tracing and mass vaccination rollout, “an effort like has never been seen on this earth before.”
Those efforts “have ultimately lead to major victories over COVID and restored some sense of normalcy,” he said. “I’m here today to honor that effort.”
Brocken’s also served on the front lines as a physician and hospitalist, along with his colleagues, caring for the “absolute sickest of the sick COVID patients since day one.”
“Together, we have endured tremendous losses. We survived the stress of hospitals stretched way beyond their capacities,” Brucken said. They could not save everyone, but their efforts did save many lives.
“I’m up here today to honor the work of all health care workers, from first responders to ICU teams,” he said, and the audience gave a long round of applause to those health care workers.
As Vigo County health commissioner and a doctor during a pandemic, the past few years have kept him extremely busy and people have often asked him why he’s been so willing to give of his time.
The reason, he said, is “because I was asked to help. I’ve always believed that if you were asked to help, and you have the ability to help someone … you should offer that help.”
Brucken left graduates with some advice, to “leave here today committed to staying in control of your own lives.”
He also advised them to raise their kids by example, by making good choices; to always be generous with their time and efforts to others; and to be respectful and practice kindness at every opportunity.