Rodolfo Rodriguez started to earn his college degree the same year Thomas Edison State University was established. After attending schools in New York, California and Kentucky, he enrolled in Thomas Edison State University and completed his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in 2015.
Rodriguez, the materials stores manager for UPS Airlines, joined more than 500 graduates at the University’s 43rd Commencement on Saturday, Sept. 26 at the Sun National Bank Center, where he delivered the response for graduates. The University is largest provider of collegiate programs for UPS.
“I started this journey of earning my degree in 1972. It has been a 40+ year journey for me as my concentration has been on building a family and a career,” he told the graduates and their guests. “As one of the founders of UPS, Jim Casey has stated on various occasions, determined people can do anything. Your story does not end today. You should use it to continue to inspire those around you.”
The class of 2015 includes 3,221 graduates and approximately 565 of those graduates attended this year’s ceremony, including graduates from 27 states as well as Canada and the Virgin Islands.
The University awarded an honorary degree to John H. Martinson, founder and partner of the Edison Venture Fund, one of the leading private equity and venture capital firms in the region. He also founded the Martinson Family Foundation, which fosters innovations in technology across a wide range of fields and has supported the Thomas Edison State University Foundation.
Martinson, who developed an interest in Thomas Alva Edison during a fifth grade visit to inventor’s laboratory in West Orange, N.J., and collected Edison memorabilia over the years, generously donated the collection for the benefit and use of Thomas Edison State University.
The college also awarded an honorary degree to Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., a cardiac surgeon who, in 1980, became the first surgeon to implant an automatic defibrillator in a human heart. Watkins was also a committed advocate for human rights and had a distinguished history with the civil rights movement. He attended the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where he met Dr. Martin Luther King. Inspired by King, he became involved in the civil rights movement and joined the King-supervised Crusaders youth group. Watkins passed away on April 11, 2015.
This year marked the sixth year that Thomas Edison State University graduates wore gowns made from recycled plastic bottles and the fifth year where they had the opportunity to return the gowns to be recycled into other products. The college has awarded approximately 53,400 degrees to nearly 50,000 graduates since it began providing flexible, high-quality, collegiate learning opportunities for self-directed adults in 1972.