WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Mike Piggott has had some unforgettable, heart-touching and “out of this world” moments throughout his time as Purdue College’s graduation orator since December 2004.
Piggott will retire after serving for the final time at Purdue’s two Aug. 7 graduation ceremonies.
Whereas there are quite a few conferences, cellphone calls and emails to tug off a graduation ceremony, one assembly took on particular significance.
Kirsten Nicole Johnson was making ready to graduate from Purdue in Could 2018. And she or he had a easy request throughout the graduation assembly: to put on her mom’s commencement gown throughout the ceremony.
Johnson’s mom, Kathy, had died of breast most cancers. As Piggott and Kirsten have been conversing, he realized about her “I really like you to the moon and again” tattoo, which was her mom’s good-night want and the importance of the commencement gown.
And as Kirsten crossed the stage throughout her ceremony, Piggott introduced each Kirsten’s and Kathy’s names.
“They walked the stage collectively,” says Piggott of that second.
To high it off, Piggott’s granddaughter, Kristin Nicole Hitch, additionally graduated that weekend – with him saying her title, too.
Keen to serve
The trail to changing into the graduation orator began as a easy query. Piggott was requested by Joe Bennett, then vp for college relations, if he can be keen to function orator.
Piggott submitted the paperwork and met with the committee, as they have been looking for a brand new orator for the ceremonies.
Earlier than beginning at Purdue as director of neighborhood relations in July 2001, Piggott spent practically twenty years as an anchor, basic supervisor and information director at WLFI, the CBS affiliate in Lafayette/West Lafayette. He additionally served as the general public tackle announcer at Mackey Area and volunteered as an emcee at quite a few neighborhood charity and nonprofit occasions.
“Mike simply fell into the job,” says Chris Go, senior assistant registrar and co-vice chair of the graduation committee. “With all of his public talking, it simply introduced his title to the highest.”
Lindsay Perrault, the second graduation orator, shares that sentiment.
“He has such a real love for this campus and neighborhood. In terms of graduation, Mike is a consummate skilled,” Perrault says. “There is a motive some individuals merely name him ‘The Voice.’ He has that uncommon vocal high quality that’s each highly effective and nice.”
Go introduced that Michael Reckowsky, director of trade engagement for Purdue Polytechnic Institute, would be the incoming orator. Reckowsky will shadow Piggott via the August graduation and work with Perrault on future commencements.
Whereas being concerned in 132 in-person and 9 digital ceremonies, Piggott and others on the workforce level out a big second of irony. Piggott, who earned his Bachelor of Arts diploma from Purdue in 1972, missed his personal graduation ceremony by attending primary coaching for the Nationwide Guard at Fort Leonard Wooden in Missouri.
A routine that’s something however routine
Just a few weeks earlier than every commencement ceremony, the graduation workforce sends Piggott and Perrault the whole itemizing of candidates’ names to allow them to begin their evaluation course of. Go estimates that in Piggott’s time as orator, he has introduced the names of greater than 100,000 Boilermaker graduates along with his unmistakable booming voice.
“If there may be any title that appears prefer it might be a problem, I’ll ship an e-mail to the coed and ask them to name me,” says Piggott. “ I’ll write it out phonetically and have it prepared. You attempt to watch out. Most college students are very appreciative.”
If he doesn’t obtain a return name, he’ll take his record and undergo the traces on the Armory or different graduation staging areas to verify in with college students on any last-minute pronunciations.
The good lengths and particulars Piggott goes via to get the pronunciation proper return to his days in tv information. He regularly obtained calls from viewers who wished to get copies of the newscast, which featured household and pals who made the native information.
“It struck me then and it has stayed with me: You no less than need to get their title proper,” Piggott says.
Go explains that whereas Purdue’s graduation ceremonies are excessive in custom, it’s that additional private contact of not solely listening to a graduate’s title, but additionally figuring out that the orators are contacting individuals to grasp the way to say the title accurately is appreciated.
“The scholars are actually grateful. It’s an vital contact,” Go says.
Perrault, who has served as an orator with Piggott for 5 years, says that only a few individuals perceive the period of time – generally a full week – that Piggott places in to ensure that each pupil’s title is pronounced accurately.
“Mike is so happy with Purdue graduates and their achievements, he believes this is a vital service we owe them,” Perrault says. “He has this black binder of names he carries round as he tracks college students down, decided to make their day particular.”
Along with studying candidates’ names, he additionally introduces honorary doctorate recipients.
One among his favourite recipients was asserting Andrew J. “Drew” Feustel as an honorary doctorate, additionally throughout a Could 2018 ceremony. Historically, the honorary doctorate recipients are on the Elliott Corridor of Music stage with the platform occasion.
Feustel (BS ’89, MS ’91) was not there – he was 250 miles away aboard the Worldwide House Station (ISS). He obtained the honorary doctorate through a reside hyperlink to the ISS throughout the ceremony. Fellow Boilermaker and NASA astronaut Scott Tingle (MS ’88) hooded Feustel throughout the ceremony.
“With Drew, Kristin and Kirsten, I’d say that was my favourite graduation weekend,” says Piggott.
When Purdue officers introduced that the 2020 commencements can be digital due to the pandemic, Piggott confirmed persistence and suppleness with the remainder of the graduation workforce and rose to the event. He adopted via by emailing candidates, getting calls from the scholars with the right pronunciations of their names.
After which he spent a number of days in a sound sales space within the basement of Stewart Heart recording each candidates’ title for every ceremony.
“Purdue has a fantastic ceremony; recording the names was what we might do,” he says.
Go even factors out that afterwards, in the event that they obtained a name from a household on a flawed pronunciation, each Piggott and Perrault went again into the sound sales space to report the right title, and Corridor of Music employees would substitute the title on the digital ceremony.
Piggott’s retirement coincides along with his grandson, Kevin Hitch, incomes his Purdue diploma on Saturday. Kevin will obtain his Bachelor of Science diploma in Industrial Engineering throughout the first ceremony that day.
The Piggott household has lengthy ties to Purdue. Along with his diploma, his spouse, Nancy (BA ’72, MS ’79), two daughters, Jane Piggott Hitch (BA ’90, MA ’96) and Julie Piggott Smith (BS ’95), sons-in-law Ron Hitch (BS ’88) and Jeffrey Smith (BS ’95), granddaughter Kristin Hitch Daub (BS 2018) and her husband Cody Daub (BS 2018), and his father-in-law Charles Turner (BS ’42), all earned Purdue levels.
“I’m wanting ahead to asserting Kevin on the August ceremony. I actually wished to be part of his commencement,” Piggott says.
Kevin says it will be a particular second listening to his grandfather name his title in entrance of the Elliott crowd.
“He is without doubt one of the major causes that I selected to come back to Purdue, and the truth that we are able to share this expertise is one thing I’ll at all times keep in mind and cherish,” Kevin says. “My sister graduated in 2018 and my grandpa acquired to learn her title, so it’s one thing that we’ve all been wanting ahead to.”
Kevin can be relieved that most of the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted – so there could be an in-person commencement at Elliott with names being learn.
“It will likely be laborious to interchange him,” Go says. “He’s performed such a fantastic job for us and Purdue.”
About Purdue College
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Author, Media contact: Matthew Oates, 765-586-7496 (cell), [email protected], @mo_oates
Media contact: Amy Patterson-Neubert, [email protected]
Sources: Christine Go, [email protected]
Mike Piggott, [email protected]
Kevin Hitch, [email protected]
Lindsay Perrault, [email protected]