Count on commencement ceremonies to bring out memories, smiles, families, and toasts to bright futures.

Saturday, December 11, was filled with all of the above and more, when students in The School of Hospitality Business at MSU participated, along with all the other graduates of the Eli Broad College of Business, in the 10:00 a.m. commencement ceremony at Breslin Center. The event also featured the graduates of several other MSU Colleges, including the Residential College of Arts and Humanities and the Colleges of Arts and Letters, Education, James Madison, Music, and Social Science.

The morning was special, with basketball and business legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson as the commencement speaker. But for graduates in The School, the “real” featured speaker was fellow senior Jordan Howell, who delivered the student remarks, noting that “My journey with The School of Hospitality Business has helped uncover skills that I did not know I could possess and helped shape the person I’ve become.”

Jordan also related the students’ classroom experiences to their life lessons. “English, writing, and communication classes have helped us shape our ideas, and use proper language and grammar.” Just as in a written assignment, he said, “In life, we choose the words we use, the font and the style with which we write. We are the authors of our own stories.”

He went on to explain that scientific tools such as beakers, magnifiers, and chemicals all help in answering questions. So does simple observation. “We observe changes around us and we are the ones to question them. We form ideas based on personal experiences and test our thoughts, constantly analyzing and reformulating our actions,” Jordan explained.

He continued, “Algebra, calculus, and geometry all challenge us to find the missing variable.” And in life we calculate until “the solution we have fits with the answer we need. Always remember,” Jordan said, “that sometimes the incorrect answer in the beginning could be the right answer in the end.”

Jordan concluded by inspiring the fellow graduates to “write big and bold, make your ink permanent, and give it a shade of green.”

Once the ceremony was over, The School’s graduates and their families headed to The University Club of MSU for a “Newest Alumni Reception,” with elegant sandwiches, appetizers, and beverages, as well as student awards and memorable words from Alumna Mary Roszel (BA ’88), the co-founder of BIGGBY COFFEE.

Mary’s remarkable success story is inspirational in itself. A single mother with two children in 1973, Mary attended Lansing Community College and became a paralegal, hoping to later attend MSU. Along the way, she was given the opportunity to work with the Michigan Supreme Court, where she stayed for 13 years.

By then, with grown children and a desire to finish her degree at MSU, Mary quit her job and enrolled in The School, and, with the hope of getting some work experience in hospitality, took a position at a Flap Jack Restaurant. There she met Bob Fish, who graduated with Mary in 1988 and together managed two Flap Jack locations, and eventually owned one. But in 1994, they sold that store and made plans to develop a multi-unit concept for a coffee café, which today is known as BIGGBY COFFEE.

Opening their first store in 1995 in East Lansing, and selling their first franchise in 1999, they now have 116 locations and are in six states. They recently opened a store in Dallas, TX and another in Wausau, WI, and plans are underway to open several more in the first quarter of 2011. Mary now oversees the design and building of the stores and works with BIGGBY franchisees to fulfill their dreams of owning a business.

Mary is active in the Lansing community, and serves on The School’s Entrepreneurial Advisory Council, on the Board for Ele’s Place, and the Michigan Restaurant Association’s Education Support Foundation.

She offered sage wisdom for the newest alumni. Borrowing from Denzel Washington in “The Great Debate,” she said, “Do what you have to do so that you can do what you want to do.” And, she said, “Getting your degree is an important part of what you have to do.”

“Be able to recognize opportunity, so be ready for it. It may present itself in a form that you haven’t considered.” In addition, she urged the students to “be willing to take a thought-out and planned risk,” noting that “you would have a better chance of swimming across a lake if you learned to swim first than if you jumped in without knowing how.”

Mary also encouraged them to “know when to cut your losses and move on” if something hasn’t worked; to “take care of yourself” by eating right and exercising; and to always “give back and inspire others to accomplish their dreams.” Get involved with The School, she advised, and volunteer and participate in your community.”

Find balance, as well, Mary urged. “Work hard, but don’t forget to have fun, too.”

The Newest Alumni Reception also honored the senior class’s two “Outstanding Students,” Lauren Jones (BA ’10) and John Triblo (BA ’10).

Congratulations to both of these future leaders, as well as to all of the December graduates of MSU and The School of Hospitality Business.