Hundreds of UIS students celebrate during 41st Commencement
The University of Illinois Springfield held its 41st Commencement ceremony on May 12, 2012 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in downtown Springfield. For many students the day marked an end of a journey, but for all it represented the beginning of a lifetime of learning.
UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch presided over the ceremony, welcoming the crowd of nearly 5,000 people during her first commencement in Springfield. A total of 770 students took part in the ceremony, walking across the stage and shaking Koch’s hand.
“Graduates, this is your day and you are participating in an important rite of passage that universities have honored for centuries,” said Koch. “All that you have strived for the past several years culminates today with this milestone.”
Koch also recognized the 82 UIS students who since Sept. 11, 2001, have had their educations interrupted because they were called to active duty in the U.S. military. Many of those students have continued their UIS education online while serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere. She thanked them for their sacrifices and extended prayers for their safe return.
Chancellor Koch was joined on the stage by campus leaders and University of Illinois President-Designate Robert Easter who inspired the crowd by asking them to look towards the future.
“Tomorrow, you become the alumni whose careers will add to our rich legacy of excellence, and inspire new generations of graduates to follow the trail you blaze,” said Easter. “And all of you will pay forward the culture of compassion that has become synonymous with UIS.”
The 2012 Commencement address was delivered by UIS alum Wenguang Huang, a Chicago-based journalist, writer and translator. He is the author of The Little Red Guard, a memoir that chronicles his growing up in central China during the 1970s. He came to Springfield in 1990, only eight months before he participated in the Tiananmen Square student uprising. He would go onto be the first international student admitted into the Public Affairs Reporting Program and earn his master’s degree from what was then Sangamon State University, now UIS.
“For me, having the opportunity to address you today fulfills a personal wish,” said Wenguang. “This college community and historic town embraced me warmly and helped me transition to America, which I now call home.”
Wenguang reminded the audience that it is the year of the dragon in China, which they see as a powerful, lucky and magic creature. He encouraged the graduates to pursue their lives dreaming telling them the powerful luck of the dragon will guide them.
“Legend has it that a dragon is powerful because it draws its power and shapes from many different animals such as a tiger, snake or eagle,” said Wenguang. “Similarly, the knowledge and skill you have gained from UIS, your parents and the community will carry you very far-- especially when combined with Midwestern sincerity and warmth. I sincerely hope that your lives—and careers—take off like the flying dragon.”
Jessica A. Odigie, the student speaker who earned a bachelor’s degree with majors in Political Science and Legal Studies delivered her speech on the true meaning of the day.
“Today is a celebration of not only all that we have accomplished here at this University, but all that we will continue to achieve and strive for throughout our ongoing pursuit of knowledge,” said Odigie.
She leaves UIS feeling confident about that the knowledge acquired, and the lessons learned, both inside and outside of the classroom.
“Although today is graduation day, today is not the end mark of our education,” said Odigie. “The world awaits us graduates of the class of 2012.”
University of Illinois Trustee Karen Hasara, UIS Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Lynne Pardie, UIS Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Tim Barnett, and University of Illinois Alumni Associate Chairman Tom Livingston also took part in the ceremony.
Photos and more video are available at the commencement website: www.uis.edu/commencement/