A journey from hospital rooms to the graduation stage

By Emily Landgraf

As seniors across Rider’s campus prepare for the fateful date of May 11, we all have something to be thankful for. Undergraduate commencement speaker Heather Shankman may have a few more reasons to be grateful that graduation has come.

During her years as an undergrad at Rider, Heather Shankman has experienced many severe health complications.

Shankman, an advertising major, is thrilled to be graduating on time, considering some of the health problems she’s had to endure.
“In the past year alone I have had two surgeries on my heart,” she wrote in an email. “Two years ago, I had quite a close call to death where I was on life support for many days and it is a miracle that I am alive today, let alone graduating on time, and being the 2012 undergraduate commencement speaker.”
Shankman explained that her health issues are a very personal matter, but that they have helped her to gain perspective and to value what she has.
“Through my experiences, I have been able to appreciate life and the time that we are given, since everything can change in a blink of an eye,” she said. “I look forward to sharing some of these experiences with everyone at graduation and to give a speech that will be remembered for many years to come.”
It has been a dream of Shankman’s to be the commencement speaker since she was a freshman. She feels she is well-suited to represent the class of 2012 because she has had many of the same experiences most college students have.
“I truly feel honored to be able to have such an opportunity to speak in front of my fellow classmates, peers, friends and family who have stood by me through these past four years,” she said. “I have done the all-nighters in the 24-hour lounge, I have made those late night diner runs and have also had my share of unforgettable weekends on campus. I look forward to giving a speech that is relatable to each and every student graduating this year.”
Shankman is still putting the final touches on her speech, but is looking forward to the experience.
“In my speech, I explain some of the life lessons that I’ve learned through the various obstacles that I have faced,” she said. “Additionally, I touch upon the impact Rider has had on myself, as well as each and every one of us. And I guess the rest you’ll just have to wait and see at graduation.”
As for those Rider students who will not be joining the class of 2012 on May 11, Shankman suggests enjoying your time here, getting involved and making the most of your college experience.
“Make sure you take advantage of your time at Rider with the friends you make and the relationships you form with your professors,” she said. “Enjoy yourself and don’t be afraid to try new things. This is your time to not only learn in the classroom, but to experience and learn life lessons.”

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