University of Southern Indiana

Spring 2022 Commencement Speakers and Honorees

Graduate Studies
Commencement Address: Justin Groenert M16

Justin Groenert M’16 will deliver the 2020 Graduate Ceremony Commencement Address. Groenert, who earned his master’s degree in public administration from USI, is currently the Vice President of Public Policy for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Prior to his current position, he served as the Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for the Office of Indiana Treasurer of State. As a lobbyist, policy director and administrator, he has held positions at the Southwest Indiana Chamber, as Senior Advisor for the office of US Congressman Dr. Larry Bucshon and a legislative aide to U.S. Congressman Ron Lewis. 

As Vice President of Public Policy, Groenert represents over 2,000 member organizations dealing with various policy matters at the federal, state and local levels for the Tennessee legislature, Office of the Governor, state agencies and local government bodies. He is a registered lobbyist and advocates for the Chamber’s policy positions and is responsible for coalition building of grassroots and grass-tops to advocate Chamber policy priorities. Additionally, he develops, writes and implements public policy initiatives for the Chamber. 

An active volunteer, Groenert is a member of the Board of Regents for the US Chamber Institute for Organizational Management. He is a past member of Evansville Rotary and former board member of Hoosier Voices for I-69, the Evansville Trails Coalition, Indiana Chamber Executives Association and was a mayoral appointee for the Evansville Environmental Protection Advisory Committee.  

Groenert presented at the Indiana Political Science Association Conference and Midwest Political Science Association Conference on research he conducted while a graduate student at USI. While working for the Southwest Indiana Chamber, he advocated for multiple initiatives including the project that would become the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences. 

Prior to attending USI, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with an emphasis in political communications at Western Kentucky University. He currently resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Honorary Doctor of Laws Degrees
William (Bill) C. and Mary R. (O'Daniel) Stone

William (Bill) C. and Mary R. (O’Daniel) Stone will be presented with honorary Doctor of Laws degrees during the graduate ceremony. Both Evansville natives, who met while attending Reitz Memorial High School, have demonstrated their repeated support for the betterment of Southern Indiana through their extraordinary efforts to sponsor a number of major initiatives. 

Bill, who has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Marquette University, founded SS&C Technologies, Inc. in 1986 in the basement of his home in Windsor, Connecticut. He has guided SS&C through 55 acquisitions, and the company has grown to more than 25,000 employees and has offices in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and North America, serving over 18,000 clients. He had continuously served as the company’s Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. 

Prior to founding SS&C, Bill worked as a certified public accountant and directed the financial services consulting practice of KPMG LLP in Hartford, Connecticut. Previously, he was Vice President of Administration and Special Investment Services at Advest, Inc., a securities broker/dealer. 

Mary, who has a bachelor’s degree in forensic studies from Indiana University, worked as a Probation Officer for Vanderburgh County courts until moving to Connecticut. There, she worked for the state’s Department of Administrative Services. She is an avid gardener who shares her knowledge and excitement with fellow gardeners while mentoring novice gardeners. Along with gardening, Mary enjoys agility training and competitions with her dogs. 

In 2018, the Stones announced their support of the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences, a partnership between the University of Southern Indiana, University of Evansville and Indiana University. The educational and research facility for health professionals, located in downtown Evansville, provides training in fields including medicine, dentistry, physician assistant, nursing and occupational therapy.  

In 2021, the couple announced a $34.2 million gift to establish the Mary O’Daniel Stone and Bill Stone Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at IU School of Medicine – Evansville. The Center will seek to fundamentally alter and improve the standard of care for people with bipolar disorder and dramatically increase access to psychiatric care for the children and adolescent youth of southwestern Indiana.   

Additionally, the Stones have supported the Patricia Browning Stone Sensory Playground at Ascension St. Vincent in Evansville and the NJ Stone Field at Reitz Memorial High School. 

Bill and Mary reside in Naples, Florida, and have three adult children—Rob, Justine and Elizabeth. 

Dr. Nadine A. Coudret

Dr. Nadine A. Coudret, Dean Emerita of the University of Southern Indiana College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP) and Professor Emerita of Nursing, is being recognized with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the Graduate Studies Commencement Ceremony for her foundational role in establishing USI’s nursing and health professions degree programs and her service as a faculty member, administrator and leader in improving the healthcare of the state and region.  

Coudret received a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees from the University of Evansville and a doctoral degree in higher education administration from Indiana University. Her clinical practice experience includes hospital and home health nursing. From 1970 to 1988, she was a faculty member and Dean of the University of Evansville Nursing and Health Sciences School. 

In 1988, Dr. David L. Rice, USI’s founding president, appointed Coudret as the CNHP Inaugural Dean. She served as Dean until her retirement in 2012, having also served as Interim Provost from 2009-10 under former USI President Dr. Linda L. M. Bennett. 

During Coudret’s tenure as Dean, over 6,500 students graduated from the CNHP, and the College received more than $10 million in external funding, including federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Her establishment of on-campus conferences and pioneer development of multiple national and international online nursing and healthcare certificate programs gained national recognition.  

She led the development of the USI baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degree nursing programs which were, and continue to be, identified and recognized for their innovation and excellence. Under her leadership, new high-performing programs in occupational therapy, health services, health administration, food and nutrition, dietetics and diagnostic sonography programs were established. USI nursing and health profession graduates are recognized for their professionalism, compassionate care and leadership. 

Coudret served on multiple USI committees, including chairing the USI Athletic Council. Professional leadership roles included serving as Indiana State Board of Nursing Chief Examiner and Vice President, Indiana State Nurses Association President, Midwest Alliance in Nursing Chair and National Council of State Boards of Nursing service. 

She served on numerous professional and community boards, including the IU Medical School Evansville Center Advisory Board, Evansville Anthem Board and the Ascension St. Vincent Evansville Board of Directors. She continues to serve as a national nursing consultant and accreditation reviewer. 

Coudret is the recipient of the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash award, the Women’s YWCA 100 Year award, USI Phenomenal Women award, and leadership awards from the National Gerontology Educator Association, the Indiana Area Health Education Center and the Indiana State Nurses Association.  

Her husband, Duke Coudret, who served as Chair of the USI Varsity Club, died in 2007. She has three children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She lives in Evansville and spends winters in her Florida condo where she enjoys playing golf, tennis and bridge. 

College of Nursing and Health Professions
Commencement Address: Dr. Ronald S. Rochon

Dr. Ronald S. Rochon, the University of Southern Indiana’s fourth President, will deliver the 2022 College of Nursing and Health Professions Commencement Address. During his first four years as President, Rochon successfully secured over $124 million in state funding for capital projects and operations from his first two biennial budget presentations to the Indiana Legislature. The University also experienced increased growth in the performance funding metrics for overall degree completion, at-risk degree completion, STEM degree completion, student persistence and on-time graduation rate. 

Under his leadership, the University has implemented its third Strategic Plan: Accelerating Impact – which includes goals for improving student success, fostering impactful engagement, elevating the visibility and reputation of the University and strengthening its financial viability, all of which he plans to achieve through collaborative community, regional, state, national and global initiatives. In 2021, his direction attracted the attention of an NCAA Division I conference which led to the University beginning the reclassification process from Division II to Division I athletics. He intentionally guides the University to be a catalyst for change, creating a talented, educated citizenry that meets the entrepreneurial and workforce needs of today’s society. 

Dr. Rochon was appointed to the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet by Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb in October 2020 and to the Midwest Higher Education Compact in 2021. An active civic leader, Rochon serves on the boards of WNIN Public Broadcasting, Deaconess Health Systems and the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership, among others, including the NCAA Division I Ohio Valley Conference Board of Presidents and the American Association of Colleges and Universities Board of Directors. Nationally, he serves as a board director for the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.  

President Rochon earned a bachelor’s degree animal science at Tuskegee University and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign. His doctoral work was in educational policy studies, with an emphasis in educational history and policy analysis. He joined USI from Buffalo State in Buffalo, New York, after serving as the Inaugural Dean of the School of Education, Associate Vice President for Teacher Education and Professor. He was Director and Co-Founder of the Research Center for Cultural Diversity and Community Renewal at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, as well as Interim Associate Dean and Director of the School of Education. In 2010, he also served as Chair of the Board of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (Washington, DC). His professional teaching career also includes Texas A&M University and Washington State University.  

President Rochon and Mrs. Lynn Wade Rochon are both natives of Chicago, Illinois, and reside in Newburgh, Indiana. They are the proud parents of two adult children. 

Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education
Commencement Address: Dr. Kester A. Phillips 02

Dr. Kester A. Phillips ’02 will deliver the 2022 Commencement Address for the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education Ceremony. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Southern Indiana and currently serves as the Medical Director of Neuro-Oncology at the Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment and Swedish Neuroscience Institute, Seattle, Washington.  

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies, Phillips received his Doctor of Medicine degree with high honors distinction in 2010 from Ross University School of Medicine, Dominica, West Indies. He completed an internal medicine internship and adult neurology residency at the State University of New York Medical Center. Following this, he completed fellowship training in neuro-oncology at Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, and the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.  

Phillips is board certified in neuro-oncology by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He has coauthored several scholarly research articles which provided key insights into the molecular underpinnings of neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease. He also coauthored several review articles and book chapters on brain and spinal tumors. His research is focused on identifying multi-targeted therapies directed at eliminating cancer stem cells in the nervous system. He is the principal investigator of several therapeutic clinical trials for patients with brain tumors.  

Phillips holds memberships in the Massachusetts Society of Clinical Oncology, Beth Israel Deaconess Academy of Medical Educators, Society for Neuro-Oncology, American Academy of Neurology and Ross University School of Medicine Neuroscience Society. He has been recognized for his achievements with numerous awards, including the USA Funds Access to Education Scholarship, the Indiana Black Expo Scholarship, the University of Southern Indiana Black Student Union Academic Excellence Award and a University of Southern Indiana Alumni Association grant. He is a member of the Alpha Kappa chapter of Sigma Zeta and was also inducted into the Golden Key National Honor Society and the Pinnacle Non-Traditional Student Honor Society during his time at USI.  

Phillips is actively involved in his community and has mentored high school students, undergraduate students, and numerous medical students and residents. He lives on the Kitsap Peninsula in the Puget Sound region of Washington State. In his spare time, he enjoys gardening, interior design, waterfall hikes, scenic drives along the coast, ferry rides to Washington State islands and long walks on the beaches with his Akita Chow, Bailey. 

College of Liberal Arts
Commencement Address: James W. Beck '92

James W. Beck ’92 will deliver the 2022 College of Liberal Arts Commencement Address. He is the Global Vice President of Corporate Communications for Alcoa Corporation, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned his bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in business administration and was a former editor of The Shield, USI’s student newspaper. 

Immediately after graduation, Beck joined the newsroom of the Evansville Courier & Press as a Staff Reporter, covering a variety of beats. After several years of reporting, he earned recognition from the E.W. Scripps Co. and the Associated Press Managing Editors for his reporting and newswriting. He was later promoted, first as an Assistant Editor and finally as the paper’s Metro Editor, supervising a team of journalists covering local and regional news.  

During his newspaper career, Beck also served for several years as an Adjunct Instructor in Communications at USI, teaching news and feature reporting. 

In 2008, Beck joined Alcoa as the Manager of Communications at Warrick Operations and later received a promotion to Manager of Government Affairs, representing three separate manufacturing locations in the State of Indiana. He also supervised Alcoa Foundation investments in the region. 

In 2015, he joined Alcoa’s corporate communications team. In his current role, Beck oversees both internal and external communications for the Fortune 500 company, which has more than 12,000 employees with operating locations across nine countries. Beck also works closely with the company’s investor relations team on quarterly earnings announcements and helps oversee all global press releases, including serving as the primary media spokesperson.  

Beck has been a member of the USI Foundation Board of Directors since 2017 and has helped provide scholarships for students.  

He previously served on various non-profit boards, including with the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana, the United Way of Southwestern Indiana and Keep Evansville Beautiful. 

Beck has been recognized for his volunteer efforts by Leadership Everyone, which awarded him a Celebration of Leadership award in 2014, and by Keep Evansville Beautiful, which named him Volunteer of the Year in 2011. He is a member of the Leadership Everyone Class of 2006 and has earned certificates in effective strategy implementation from Indiana University and lean manufacturing from Alcoa. 

Beck and his wife, Lara (Sears) Beck ’92 live in northern Vanderburgh County. The two met while they were coworkers at The Shield. Together, they have two grown children, Andrew Beck and Kaitlyn (Beck) Elpers; and one granddaughter, Tatem Beck.  

President's Medalist
Anna Ardelean 22

Anna M. Ardelean ‘22 graduates summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science and minors in Africana studies, pre-law and Spanish studies. A student succeeding in academic excellence, Ardelean is also recognized for her servant leadership and commitment to equity, accessibility and justice at USI and beyond. 

During the College of Liberal Arts Commencement Ceremony, Ardelean, a first-generation college student, will receive the President’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed to a graduate in the Class of 2022.  

Ardelean, a David L. Rice Scholarship recipient, University Honors Scholar, recipient of the Sherianne Standley University Service Award and the first to receive the Anne Statham Community Engagement Award, is committed to having all University voices be heard. 

As Student Government Association (SGA) President, Ardelean was responsible for representing student voices to University administration. During her time as SGA President, she implemented a series of public forums to encourage students to learn from key individuals in the USI and Evansville communities. Through her four years on campus, she also advocated bringing a polling location to campus to increase youth voter participation, collecting over 500 survey responses from students who showed overwhelming support for the initiative, in addition to registering roughly 250 USI students to vote. 

A native of Mooresville, Indiana, Ardelean is praised for her leadership qualities; diversity, equity and inclusivity initiatives; and service to both the USI and Evansville communities. Those who know her note her ability to achieve academic excellence while advocating for positive change in all facets of the USI community.  

In addition to her role in SGA, Ardelean was a member of the USI Presidential COVID-19 Task Force, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, the Administrative Appeals Committee, and the recent Division I Exploratory Committee, among others. She served as USI College Democrats President, where she encouraged students to engage in political activism. Ardelean has spoken at numerous anti-racist protests, the USI Martin Luther King Jr. annual celebration and the USI Nelson Mandela Day student activism panel. 

Beyond USI, Ardelean has worked on various political campaigns at the local, state and national levels. She interned with the Evansville Vanderburgh County Human Relations Commission in spring 2021, addressing discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.  

Following her graduation, Ardelean intends to continue her education, working toward a master’s degree in public policy with an emphasis on racial and economic policy from Brandeis University in Boston, Massachusetts. She plans to run for office or work in the nonprofit sector, pushing for positive change from outside the political system.  

Ardelean is the daughter of Dan and Stacey Ardelean and a graduate of Plainfield High School. 

Other finalists for the President’s Medal from the Class of 2022 included Elissa Tam and Erika Uebelhor. The Student Affairs Committee of Faculty Senate annually selects the recipient of the President’s Medal. 

Romain College of Business
Commencement Address: Janet Heldt Baas 86

Janet Heldt Baas ’86 will deliver the 2022 Romain College of Business Commencement Address. She earned a bachelor’s degree in management from USI. Baas retired in May 2020, completing her career as Senior Vice President and Foundation President for Old National Bank and was also named as the company’s “Volunteer of the Year” across five states at her retirement for her commitment to community and servant leadership. 

Baas joined Old National Bank as a Management Trainee in 1988 and spent over 32 years with the company in various roles in management and human resources. Through 2016, she maintained her certification from the Society for Human Resource Management and oversaw management and the development of new initiatives in a range of areas, including oversight of various large-scale human resources projects, diversity, work life balance and sustainability, as well as being instrumental in the development of a corporate-wide volunteer program. She started in her role as the Old National Bank Foundation President in 2005. 

As the Director of the Foundation, she worked to create, maintain and manage overall philanthropic strategy, implementation and oversight of measurable outcomes. She managed the oversight of communication, implementation and execution of grants through the online grants management portal. Baas was responsible for communicating strategy and vision both internally and externally for the Old National Bank Foundation and for collaborating with partners to strengthen communities within Old National Bank’s expanding service area. 

A passionate civic advocate and leader, she has served in key leadership roles, such as Chair of the Board of Directors for the Evansville Christian Life Center. Other boards that Baas has served on include A Network of Evansville Women, the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, the Evansville Parks Foundation, the Evansville and Indiana areas of the American Cancer Society, Hispanic Outreach for Latin Americans and Evansville’s Celebration of Diversity Lecture Series. As a proud USI alumna, she has volunteered as a student mentor for the USI Alumni Association and served on the Volunteer USI Advisory Council. 

Baas is a two-time finalist for the Southwest Indiana Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Award and has received awards for service and leadership from the University of Southern Indiana, Old National Bank, the Evansville-Area Human Resources Association and Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve Indiana. Since her retirement, she remains committed to being engaged in the community and has served more recently on the initial creation of the COVID-19 Crisis Response Fund of the Greater Evansville Region, where she served on several committees following her retirement. Currently, she is assisting other community leaders with fundraising efforts for a multimillion-dollar campaign to benefit 10 counties in the Tri-state and local region. 

Baas lives in Newburgh, Indiana, with her husband, Scott. She has two sons, Luke and Nick Heldt; one daughter-in-law, Taylor Heldt; one stepdaughter, Erica Bernhardt; one stepson-in-law, Greg Bernhardt; one stepson, Justin Baas; and one grandson, Graham Bernhardt. She holds a master’s degree in public service administration from the University of Evansville and a certificate in nonprofit executive leadership from Indiana University. 

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