By Jessica Stamp
Spring commencement will begin at 1 p.m. May 6 at Stambaugh Stadium at Youngstown State University with over 1,500 students graduating. The event will have free parking for family and friends.
The event will feature keynote speaker Ellen Tressel, retired first lady and wife to former YSU President Jim Tressel.
She gave a speech in December 2022 during her husband’s tenure celebration as YSU’s president. Then in February, Ellen was asked to be a keynote speaker.
“In the middle of December, there was a celebration of my husband’s tenure at Youngstown State as president … I gave a speech that night, which apparently a lot of people like,” Ellen said. “From there my name must have come up in the discussions beyond that, and they called me — probably, it was February — and asked if I would be the speaker for commencement as the retired first lady, so I said yes.”
Ellen said it can be daunting to talk in front of a crowd but she will always give her best.
“It’s always nerve-racking to speak in front of the crowd and it’s not an easy thing to do but I’m gonna put a lot of thought into it, a lot of prayer and give it my best shot and hopefully, it’ll be well received,” Ellen said.
Ellen said she plans on talking about her experience with YSU, her family history and giving the graduates a message to take with them as they move forward with their journey past YSU.
“[I’ll] probably talk a little bit about my experience with Youngstown State and my family history there,” Ellen said. “Then, probably the message will be to the graduate as to a little bit about their future and what it might be going forward for them and how to make an impact and make a difference in their lives and to those around them.”
Ellen said commencement is a moment for graduates to reflect on all their hard effort and commitment.
“Commencement is probably one of the greatest days of their lives because it shows a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, a lot of persistence, a lot of grit that they have put into their education to get to that point and they can be very proud of that,” Ellen said.
Elizabeth Brassell, a senior social work major, will be the student speaker at commencement.
Brassell explained that she was offered the role of speaker by not one, but two people from the university.
“I was nominated by the chair of the social work department, Dana Davis, and then I got an email from Joe Morgan, who is Lakeland’s representative for YSU,” Brassell said. “He reached out to me and asking if I would interview for this role and I said yes.”
Brassell said her speech is going to be about success in both the workplace and in life.
“It’s based on determination,” Brassell said. “Don’t be afraid to fail, it’s a part of learning.”
Brassell said some advice she would give to graduating students is to never give up despite how hard life can get.
“Never give up even if it’s one small setback. It’s just a bump in the road, you’ll eventually get to your end goal,” Brassell said.
Both Ellen and Brassell will be speaking at commencement for about seven to nine minutes congratulating students on their achievements and successes.
In the case of severe weather, commencement will be rescheduled for the following day, May 7.