The Woods Celebrates Winter Commencement

December 16th, 2013 | SMWC

On a snowy winter day, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) celebrated its 174th commencement on Dec. 14, 2013. Nearly 60 students crossed the stage in the ceremony.

Tracy Richardson, Ph.D., MT-BC, professor and director of masters in music therapy at SMWC and 1988 SMWC graduate delivered the commencement address. Richardson spoke to graduates about the meaning of being alums of The Woods.

Reflecting on their past four years, she noted that those experiences have helped shape their values and character.

“Your Woods education has encouraged you to think and to question,” explained Richardson. “That is the nature of a liberal arts education, and it is integrated into our graduate programs. Don’t forget that as a liberally educated person, you have the right and responsibility to think critically, to question, to gather information before making decisions, to challenge your own biases and assumptions as well as those of others. This process should not stop after you frame your diploma.”

Renita MinorRenita Minor

For Renita Minor from Indianapolis, Ind., it was a day of firsts. “Not only am I the first person in my family to graduate from college, I am the first to graduate with a master’s degree,” she explained. Minor works in a variety of positions with organizations in the community. “The Master of Leadership Development degree will help to elevate me in my role in community.”

Kristin StrowKristin Strow

Kristin Strow, elementary education major from Paris, Ill., shared what the day means to her. “It’s a new beginning. Here, I have learned to grow as an individual and as a leader and to make a difference in the lives of others.”

During the ceremony, two graduating seniors received the prestigious Alumnae/i Leadership and Service Award. The award recognizes outstanding students who have demonstrated exceptional service and responsible leadership during their time at The Woods.

Amber SlaughterbeckAmber Slaughterbeck with President Dottie King

The 2013 undergraduate recipient Amber Slaughterbeck made a significant impact on sustainability efforts on the SMWC campus and in the local community. Slaughterbeck served the College as president of the Sustainability Club and planned and organized the Wabashiki cleanup project. Known as “The Turtle Girl,” she worked to transport turtles safely across a busy four-lane highway. She has been involved at Turkey Run State Park, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department. She plans to use her leadership skills in her career as a Naturalist, where she hopes to change minds to believe that our environment is to be cherished.

Susan TurnerSusan Turner with President Dottie King

The 2013 graduate recipient of the award is not only a leader in her cohort, but in the Wabash Valley Community as well. Susan Turner serves as the marketing chair for the Essence of Red Heart Health Awareness event, as well as the chair of the Industrial Parks in the United Way Professional Division. She is also an active member of the Terre Haute Young Leaders and the Accelerate Board. As a student in the Master of Leadership Development program, she believes that her experience has provided her a firm foundation of leadership, and will forever impact her life, both professionally and personally.

See pictures from the ceremony on Flickr.



Additionally, the College awarded its first Presidential Aspire Award. The award honors community leaders who demonstrate a passion for using the present to create a better future.

Dr. Dipa SarkarPresident Dottie King and Dr. Dipa Sarkar

The 2013 recipient of this year’s Aspire Higher Award, Dipa Sarkar, M.D., has been active in the medical field in the United States and abroad prior to her retirement. She earned her medical degree at Calcutta Medical College. She practiced in India before coming to the United States where she specialized in pathology and cytopathology. Dipa served at Clay County, Mary Sherman and Union hospitals. Additionally, she taught at Indiana State University as an assistant professor in medical technology. She has generously given of her time in a variety of leadership and board positions with American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, Camp Blue Bird, Catholic Charities, Council of Domestic Abuse, India Association of Terre Haute, Lifeline, Salvation Army and the Swope Art Museum. She was also a member of the American Medical Association, American Society of Cytology, Indiana Association of Pathologists and Terre Haute Academy of Medicine.

Perhaps the experience that has meant the most to her was working along side Mother Teresa in a leprosy clinic outside Calcutta. Years later, their paths would cross again as Dipa helped her care for children traveling to Belgium. Dipa recognizes that working with Mother Teresa, a woman with the heart of service for the suffering, abandoned and homeless, was indeed a special gift from God. She said, “Mother Teresa planted a seed of human kindness that has made me what I am today.”

About Tracy Richardson, Ph.D.

Tracy Richardson, Ph.D., MT-BC, professor and director of masters in music therapy at SMWC, delivered the commencement address. Richardson holds a Bachelor of Science degree in music therapy from SMWC, Master of Science in agency counseling and Ph.D. in counselor education from Indiana State University. She is also the chairperson of the music and theatre department at SMWC and has taught at The Woods for 18 years.

Richardson has been a board certified music therapist for 25 years and has worked with people with a variety of health issues, including mental health challenges, developmental disabilities and cancer. She specializes in the use of clinical songwriting as a music therapy intervention with her clients. She is the immediate past president of the Great Lakes Region of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), serves as an AMTA Assembly Delegate, and won the conference songwriting award, awarded by the American Music Therapy Association, in 2009.

Richardson is a singer, songwriter and keyboard player. Between 1983 and 1988, she performed in a band that opened locally for such acts as Randy Travis, George Strait, Keith Whitley, and John Conlee. In 1997, she released a self-titled, self-produced CD containing original songs, one of which received local airplay. She continues to perform in local venues as a solo performer.

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