Island University Celebrates Summer 2021 Graduates at American Bank Center

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – All the pomp and circumstance of a traditional Island University Commencement filled the American Bank Center as 706 Islanders earned degrees during Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Summer 2021 Commencement Ceremony, held Aug. 7.

Dr. Blair Sterba-Boatwright, who joined the Island University faculty in 1989, was tapped as this summer’s commencement speaker. During his 32 years of teaching and service, Sterba-Boatwright rose to the rank of Professor and served as Program Coordinator, Department Chair of Mathematics and Statistics twice, Associate Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, and Speaker of the Faculty Senate.

Sterba-Boatwright punctuated his keynote address with bits of humor as he offered four key points to the assembly of graduates before him:

  • Congratulations!
  • The hard work starts now.
  • Lead by example.
  • Don’t forget to fail.

He noted that most graduates likely had to overcome an academic hurdle as well as major distractions on the way to commencement.

“Perhaps you had family you were responsible for, perhaps you had to work many hours to make ends meet, perhaps you had to deal with depression, perhaps you had military obligations, perhaps you liked to party too much,” he said. “But regardless of whether you fall into any of those obligations, all of you had to deal with the stress and isolation - and unfortunately for some of you – the tragedy of the ongoing pandemic. In spite of all this, you succeeded and finished your degree.”

Sterba-Boatwright also encouraged graduates to take chances and to reject fear of failure, referencing the 1980 Star Wars film “The Empire Strikes Back” when Yoda shares a now-famous bit of wisdom with his protégé Luke Skywalker: “Do. Or Do not. There is no try.”

“Well, baloney. I say yes try. Put yourself out there, take a chance, and don’t be afraid of failure,” he said, adding: “And if you reach the end of your life and you’ve never failed, then you probably haven’t dared enough.”

Brandon Crowson ’21 graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and Management. Crowson said his proudest experience as an Islander is his time as a member of Delta Chi fraternity.

“A graduation ceremony brings so many feelings to mind. I have surrounded myself with the upmost sense of pride and determination,” Crowson said. “It’s true – all the hard work, late nights, lack of sleep, and stressful days all lead up to this special day.”

Crowson said he worked more than 60 hours a week for the past five years, in addition to his academic requirements. Currently employed by IBC Bank, he plans to pursue a Master of Business Administration at A&M-Corpus Christi and obtain a CPA license upon completion.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to get emotional but, this journey has now come to an end,” Crowson said. “All the hard work and sacrifices I made these past few years were worth it.”

Alina Delgado ’21, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, said she was inspired to become a nurse after meeting a nurse who was caring for her mother.

“I spent a couple days on the med-surg floor when they were taking care of her. At the time, I was 17, and I fell in love with everything the med-surg nurse was doing for my mom,” Delgado said. “Because if someone can do that for your mother, and smile, and help your mother who’s in pain, you can do that for anybody.”

Laraib Fatima ’21, an international student from Pakistan, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences, with a minor in chemistry.

She says she initially came to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi with the intention of transferring to a larger school her sophomore year but says the impactful connections she made her first year kept her on the island.

“I really got involved very quickly. I started as an SI leader, then a TA for chemistry,” Fatima said. “I then got involved in the Student Government Association and was the first international student voted as student body president. I thank everyone for entrusting me with that honor.”

Fatima thanks her professors and mentors for helping her on her academic journey.

“I had great professors, including Dr. Silliman and Dr. Buck,” she said. “In terms of staff, Ms. Lori Flaminio literally saw me on my first day of school (as my adviser) and on my last day of class. She played a really big part in me staying here. I also want to thank Dr. Amy Aldridge Sandford and President Miller.”

Fatima plans to apply to medical school to become a cardiac surgeon.

Each semester, the Office of the Provost honors graduates for their Islander impact. For summer 2021, they include:

Dr. Kelly M. Miller, President and CEO of A&M-Corpus Christi, who opened the ceremony, closed by thanking the graduates for staying the course through the many challenges that took place along the way.

“Thank you for staying the course in the face of a global pandemic, thank you for staying the course during a freeze, thank you for staying the course when many others did not – you kept going and you know that you can face anything and reach your goals,” Miller said. “That is something to be incredibly proud of, and I can only imagine what you are going to bring to this world with that kind of experience behind you.”

The ceremony was open to all graduates who RSVP’d to attend, along with 10 ticketed guests per students. For those unable to attend, the ceremony can be viewed at