UC Celebrates December Class of 2015

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – especially for the more than 2,400 graduates earning degrees at the University of Cincinnati’s fall Commencement held Saturday at the Fifth Third Arena.

UC President Santa J. Ono congratulated the class of 2015, which includes 2,439 graduates earning 267 associate degrees, 1,177 bachelor’s degrees, 905 master’s degrees, 107 doctoral degrees and 6 professional degrees.

“As I think of the dreams and aspirations that you have for yourselves, for our community and for our world, I feel proud and humbled that higher education and the University of Cincinnati have been here to be part of your quest,” he said. 

“I want to congratulate you and thank you for allowing us to play a role in your commitment to reach higher and to achieve more,” Ono said. 

UC bestowed its highest honor, an honorary degree, to two recipients: International businessman and former UC trustee

Gary Heiman

, and

Earl Lewis

, a social historian and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

Lewis encouraged the graduates to remember those who had encouraged them along their educational journeys and urged them to apply their talents and skills in inspiring the next generation. 

“You have done far more than earn a degree,” he told the graduates. “You will have to use your tools for the betterment of all.  That’s your challenge and responsibility.” 


The Fall 2015 graduating class of 2,439 students hails from 47 states and 49 countries. More than one-third of the graduates will earn master’s degrees, and 107 students, doctorate degrees.

Nearly half of students will receive degrees in the science, technology, engineering, math or medical fields. Nearly 29 percent of students are graduating from distance learning programs, while nearly 80 percent of graduates have taken at least one distance learning course.   

Women comprise nearly 57 percent of the class. The average age of all graduates is 28, with the youngest overall graduating student 18 and the oldest, 69. 

Numbers of those receiving Latin honors: summa cum laude (grade point average between 3.9 and a perfect 4.0) 41; magna cum laude (GPA between 3.75 and 3.8999) 72; cum laude (GPA between 3.6 and 3.74999) 73.


Graduates and guests were encouraged to take issue message of congratulations, encouragement and celebration via social media using the hashtag #UCGrad15. Here's a sampling of the well-wishes that went out: 


"CCM changed my life. The faculty and resources were incredible. Graduating will definitely be bittersweet. As excited as I am to graduate, I will miss it. For freshman: if you think high school went by fast, college flies by, so take advantage of every opportunity and don't hold back. You'll be done before you know it."

Michael Paulik, College-Conservatory of Music

"The BTAS (Bachelor's Degree in Applied Administration) program has been quite a boon in my professional life. I have been able to take courses that translated directly into real world knowledge for my job. It's always a satisfying feeling to be able to answer questions or correct an issue using information I gained in school only a few days or a few weeks prior."

Thomas Bodnarik, UC Clermont College

"With the support of my husband, two children, and many friends, I am graduating with my bachelor's degree at 46 years old. Achieving this goal is such a thrill and, even though it was very challenging, I am so happy I overcame my fears and started this journey seven years ago."

Angela Mintz, College of Allied Health Sciences

"From as far back as I could remember, I wanted to be a UC Bearcat. Although I was diligent in the classroom, school simply never came easy to me. I set my standards high by only applying to one college, which was the University of Cincinnati. After three rejection letters plagued my mailbox in the course of two years, I finally decided to apply to UC Blue Ash, where I was accepted, and worked my way up to transitioning to the main campus. Now, after many long hours and the constant willpower to succeed, I am graduating with my bachelor's degree in health promotion from the University of Cincinnati with a 3.3 GPA. Through this process I've learned that anything is possible if you want it badly enough. Thank you, UC, for the many wonderful years and for helping me turn my dreams into a reality!"

Stacie Zeis, College of Education, Criminal Justice & Human Services

"Being a working nurse paying for school out of pocket and dedicating time to studying through an online program is rough. I am so glad I found UC because the professors are caring and understanding, and now I will graduate after four years of chipping away at my goal to become an adult geriatric nurse practitioner."

Randi Horne, College of Nursing

"When I graduated from Archbishop McNicholas High School in 2011, I wasn’t sure what my future held. So, I started looking for affordable possibilities in my own backyard, and that's where I found UC Clermont. I had no idea I was stumbling on a diamond in the rough.  Once at Clermont, I attended orientation as a nursing student, but I quickly realized the field wasn’t for me. I switched to liberal arts and finished my general requirements. But it wasn’t until I took a class in retail and advertising that I found my true calling. From my uncertain start, I have carved a path at UC Clermont’s campus and began discovering my true passion. Clermont was the perfect place for me to figure out what I wanted to do and who I am."

Margaret Cowens, UC Clermont College

"...I am proudly graduating with my degree at 47 years old! You are never too old to accomplish your dreams! I am the first in my generation to graduate college. The professors and staff of the University of Cincinnati supported me, believed in me and pushed me not to give up. I am forever grateful."

Tracy Payne, College of Education, Criminal Justice & Human Services

"I'm married, have two children, moved myself internationally...but getting this degree is the thing I am most proud of! I learned so much about myself from the hectic, crazy, busy last few years of my life. I have also received so much help from my family--from the countless hours of babysitting, to the encouragement I needed to hear. As I start my career, I am looking forward to all the new challenges, as well as the opportunities I will have to pay it forward!"

Yuka Sakumota-Schmidt, Carl H. Lindner College of Business

"I started using drugs and alcohol in high school. The path I chose led me down a dark and narrow road that eventually left me homeless and broken. After many years of homelessness, rehabs and jail, I sought help. I found recovery and began a path that would lead me to become a productive member of society. After three years without drinking or using any mind altering substance, I decided to apply at UC Clermont. UC Clermont and the Manufacturing Engineering department granted me a fresh start in life and a fresh start in school. I'm now seven years clean, and I'm about to graduate with an associate degree in manufacturing engineering! This is unbelievable for someone like me. Thank you, UC, for allowing second chances."

Jeremy Bertsch, UC Clermont College


UC bestowed two honorary doctorates, its highest award.  Recipients are:


Further information is available on the

Commencement website