By Courtney Westlake
Emotions from pride to excitement were abundant on Saturday, May 16, at the Prairie Capital Convention Center as graduates, their families and members of the UIS community gathered to celebrate the 38th UIS Commencement Ceremony.
More than 600 UIS graduates gathered in their caps and gowns on Saturday afternoon to receive their hard-earned diplomas in the presence of their proud friends and families in a day that summed up years of hard work and dedication.
"Without question, this is the most gratifying moment of the year for all of us," said Chancellor Richard Ringeisen. "All that we strive for and all that we stand for is really about the preparation for this one day when we celebrate a milestone for our graduates."
Dr. Matthew Holden, Jr., was the 2009 Commencement Speaker for UIS. Holden has been designated as the first Wepner Distinguished Professor in Political Science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He will become a part of the Department of Political Science in the College of Public Affairs and Administration this fall.
“I am becoming familiar with the UIS vision…three legs like a tripod: academic excellence, enriching individual lives and making a difference in the world,” Holden said.
Holden focused on five different themes in his speech, from friendship to the challenges that come with opportunities and more.
Holden said he would not be where he is today without the “sponsors,” or mentors, who have guided him through life, including his parents, professors and others along the way.
“You do not get anywhere all by yourself,” he said. “Your opportunity depends on somebody else’s sponsorship.”
Making a difference in the world, one of the focuses at UIS, always means meeting someone else’s need, Holden said. However, he added, “as you seek to make a difference in the world, you will find the opportunities are endless, but they are not cost-free.”
Friendships also count when seeking to make a difference in the world, Holden noted.
Paul Gesterling, the student speaker and graduate of a master’s degree in Public Administration,also tied in with Holden’s speech and encouraged his fellow graduates to impact the world in a positive way.
"There are enough graduating classes headed out to save the world, but we could be one of the few to have a deep and lasting impact in Mechanicsburg, Illinois or St. Patrick's School or Enos Park Neighborhood. It may not be glamorous, but it's real and it's human and it's important," Gesterling said. "I'm hoping that leaving here, the UIS graduating class of 2009, will work with a touch of genius and a lot of courage to make a difference on a human scale."
Gesterling urged his fellow graduates to be a part of whatever community they are headed to.
“In my field we call it civic engagement. Whatever your field calls it, get involved. Take an active role in your community with all of your best ideas, beliefs, skills, values, motives," he said. "Not to save the world, but to be human, to be fulfilled and live as a social being for the betterment of your community, your family and yourself.”
With his stories from his own life as examples of his lessons, Holden reminded the UIS graduates to remember, above else, that failure is not final.
“You are wonderful people, but you will stumble; things will go wrong. When you stumble, remember that failure is not final; you get up and struggle on to the next thing,” he said.