December 19, 2008

Record 593 Owens Community College Students Graduate During Fall Commencement Ceremonies

A record 593 Owens students graduated during Fall Commencement.

A record 593 Owens students graduated during Fall Commencement.

PERRYSBURG TOWNSHIP, OH – Challenging graduates to choose possibility over uncertainty, Barbara Steele, Regional President of the ProMedica Health System, addressed the Owens Community College graduating class as the academic institution recently held its 30th annual Fall Commencement.

Steele served as the keynote speaker and shared with the record 593 graduates, including 107 from the Findlay-area Campus, about the importance of realizing the many possibilities set before them that are “stretched wide open from horizon to horizon.”

“The hard work, dedication and perseverance that got you here today is proof positive that you have made the same choice. You’ve made the brave decision to dwell in possibility,” stated Steele. “As you prepare to take your new, well-deserved degrees out into the world to build a better life for yourself and your loved ones, I encourage you to continue surrounding yourself with possibility.”

Steele added, “And, try to remember the profound words of Norman Vincent Peale who so wisely advised, “Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities – always see them, for they’re always there.”

For more than 30 years, Steele has been a local, regional and national leader in the health care industry. As Regional President for ProMedica Health System, Steele oversees the business development, operations, strategic initiatives and community relations for eight acute care hospitals, including The Toledo Hospital, the area’s leading tertiary care facility, and Toledo Children’s Hospital, the region’s only accredited hospital exclusively serving children. Additionally, she is responsible for ProMedica Cancer Institute and ProMedica Orthopaedic Institute, several ambulatory care facilities, and more than 1,100 physicians and 13,000 employees.

Throughout her career, Steele has demonstrated superior vision while embracing emerging medical trends and technology. Her outstanding dedication to continuous progress and innovation has enabled ProMedica to address the changing needs of the health care industry in order to ensure future stability and viable operations. In this capacity, Steele has been instrumental in the planning, development and execution of numerous transformational initiatives within ProMedica Health System including the integration of services at Flower Hospital, The Toledo Hospital and Toledo Children’s Hospital, which resulted in $28 million merger savings; and the $156 million “Renaissance Project,” which rejuvenated the campus of The Toledo Hospital and Toledo Children’s Hospital.

In addition, Steele has held numerous national leadership positions, serving on several boards including the American Hospital Association and the Ohio Hospital Association. Locally, she has been involved with the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program, area women’s shelters, the Maumee Valley Girl Scouts and Partners In Education. She is also an active member of the Toledo Opera Board and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce Board.

Steele holds a master’s degree in business administration from Central Michigan University, a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Eastern Michigan University and an associate’s degree in nursing from Lansing Community College.

In addition, Nila Jennings of Maumee, a middle childhood education major, was selected as the Owens class representative and addressed the graduates during the Fall Commencement ceremony.

Jennings grew up in a small, rural town in Tennessee. From a young age she dreamed of a college education, but in the time and area she grew up in, there were not many women who attended college.

After graduating from high school, she enrolled in a one-year program at Knoxville Business College and finished at the top of her class. She went on to work as a secretary and administrative assistant in the aerospace and defense industry and started a family. From time-to-time, she took a few classes at community colleges wherever she lived.

In 1995, Jennings moved to the Toledo area and began an online home-decor business. Despite enjoying success in life, she always felt that without a degree she was missing something.

“My life has been very rewarding, but many doors were always closed to me because I was missing that one very important piece – a formal education,” said Jennings.

At the urging of her family, she enrolled at Owens in 2007 at the age of 53. Although a non-traditional student, Jennings found her time in college to be an immensely enriching experience and she benefited from the camaraderie she shared with the younger students.

Her son, Jason Carver, was a constant source of support and encouragement for her throughout her time at Owens. It was his love and confidence in her, the devotion of her family, the support of her church, and the steady encouragement from faculty members at Owens that has brought her to this great day of success.

One of Jennings’ favorite sayings is, “Failure is never failure unless we quit.” Her commencement speech highlighted that theme in addition to many other topics such as perseverance, commitment and doing your very best.

“Our time here at Owens was a brief chapter in our lives, but it is a chapter that has prepared us well for the greatness of our destiny! Inside us are the leaders, and the doers and the change-makers,” explained Jennings. “We are the ones who will dream, build and invent. We will ask questions and we will discover answers. We will not be satisfied with the status quo and we will make this world, and particularly our own world, a better place.”

An honors student with a 4.0 grade point average, Jennings will be attending the University of Toledo for her bachelor’s degree in organizational and leadership management after graduation and intends on opening her own consulting business focused on leadership development. Additionally, she envisions advocating the importance of a college education to area young adults as a motivational speaker. Her community involvement includes serving on the board of the PAM Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides clothing and school supplies to economically disadvantaged students in southeast Tennessee’s rural communities.

“Children may not always have the best, but if we can help them to believe in themselves and see the great potential that lies within them, then they too can reach their dreams. I hope to show others that a college degree is attainable for everyone who will dare to believe, take the first step, and never give up,” said Jennings.


An Owens graduate gets into the holiday spirit with a decorative commencement cap featuring LED lighting.

An Owens graduate gets into the holiday spirit with a decorative commencement cap featuring LED lighting.

Barbara Steele, Regional President of the ProMedica Health System, served as the Fall Commencement keynote speaker.

Barbara Steele, Regional President of the ProMedica Health System, served as the Fall Commencement keynote speaker.

Nila Jennings of Maumee addresses the College's graduates as class representative.

Nila Jennings of Maumee addresses the College’s graduates as class representative.

Owens graduates of the landscape and turfgrass management program showcase their future careers on their graduation caps.

Owens graduates of the landscape and turfgrass management program showcase their future careers on their graduation caps.

Owens graduates (L to R) Tryena Bigsby of Toledo (early childhood education) and Janae Hogue of Toledo (criminal justice technology) take time to pose for a photo prior to the ceremony.

Owens graduates (L to R) Tryena Bigsby of Toledo (early childhood education) and Janae Hogue of Toledo (criminal justice technology) take time to pose for a photo prior to the ceremony.

Owens graduates line up for the procession into the College's Student Health and Activities Center and the start of the Fall Commencement ceremony.

Owens graduates line up for the procession into the College’s Student Health and Activities Center and the start of the Fall Commencement ceremony.

Owens Community College is one of the fastest-growing higher educational institutions in Ohio. On the Toledo-area and Findlay-area campuses, Owens serves more than 45,000 credit and non-credit students. Owens is committed to providing small classes, personal attention and unmatched affordability. Owens Community College offers associate degrees that transfer to baccalaureate degrees in the Arts and Sciences and over 130 technical program areas in Agriculture, Business, Health Sciences, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Skilled Trades, and Engineering and Transportation Technologies. Owens students also can earn the first two years of a bachelor’s degree with a smooth transfer to any area four-year college or university. For more information, visit www.owens.edu.