Nearly 400 graduate from Southwestern Michigan College

Published 7:39 am Monday, May 9, 2016

Leader photo/TED YOAKUM

Leader photo/TED YOAKUM

Like the other speakers who stood on the podium before him, Southwestern Michigan College Alumnus Kelly Rose congratulated the hundreds of graduating Roadrunners sitting in front of him Saturday for their accomplishments in the classroom over the last several years.

While encouraging the students to spend the rest of the week celebrating, the recreational vehicle business mogul urged them that come Monday or Tuesday it was time to “lace up your bootstraps and put your game face on.”

“Start preparing for what you want to be,” Rose said. “Who you want to be and where you’re going. … We all want to be something, but what is that?”

Rose shared some of the lessons he had learned since his days on campus with the SMC Class of 2016, during the community college’s 49th annual commencement ceremony that morning in the Charles O. Zollar Building. A total of 683 associate degrees and certificates were handed out to 387 students — including five who graduated with perfect 4.0 GPAs.

Ferris State University also awarded 33 bachelor’s degrees during the ceremony.

Rose, who still describes himself as “a farm boy from Edwardsburg,” is the chairman of five different RV manufacturers. In 1994 he was named Indiana Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year. He was inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in 2002.

In spite of his success in the business world, he never forgot his roots as a student at Southwestern Michigan College — especially since it was where he met his wife of 43 years, Karen.

In fact it was at the same Zollar Building where Saturday’s commencement took place where he first laid eyes upon on her, he said.

“As soon I saw her, I looked over at my buddies and told them ‘I’m gonna marry her someday,’” Rose said.

When it came to his plans for his career, though, things were less certain, as he said he didn’t really have a set path coming out of school — only dreams of what he one day wanted to become.

Through working as hard as he could everyday, he eventually found his way as powerhouse figure in the RV industry, co-founding his very own company at just the age of 25.

Before closing his remarks to the students, Rose encouraged the class that, no matter if they have a destination in mind or not, to put in the dedication needed to succeed in whatever they do, one day at time, he said.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a present,” he said.