Sunday, May 18, 2014

43rd Commencement marks new beginning for UIS students

Watch the full UIS Commencement Ceremony

The University of Illinois Springfield held its 43rd Commencement ceremony on May 17, 2014 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in downtown Springfield. For many students the day marked an important milestone, as years of hard work, culminated in a single event.

UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch presided over the ceremony, welcoming the crowd of around 6,000 people. A total of 740 students took part in the ceremony, walking across the stage and shaking Koch’s hand.

“Like the other two campuses of the U of I, we are ‘transforming lives and serving society’ in Illinois and far beyond,” said Koch. “We make a difference in the world. In saying that, I am not talking about an abstract ideal. I am talking specifically about each of you, our graduates – about your own future aspirations, contributions and achievements.”

Koch also congratulated first generation college graduates, thanked family members for supporting their students, and thanked members of the military.

Chancellor Koch was joined on the stage by campus leaders and University of Illinois President Robert A. Easter who reflected on what students have learned at UIS.

“You are world-ready critical thinkers with the ability to communicate, to analyze, to innovate and to adapt,” said Easter. “You have the tools needed to flourish in your first job, and the capacity to build on those talents and adjust to a fast-changing, global workplace that will no doubt look much different 10, 25 or 50 years from now.”

The 2014 Commencement address was delivered by UIS alum Donovan Pepper who is now national director of local government relations for Walgreens. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political studies from UIS. As a student leader in the early 1990s, he was so highly regarded as Student Government Association president that his peers renamed the student leadership award after him while he was still a student. In 2008 he was honored with the University of Illinois Alumni Association Loyalty Award for exceptional alumni service.

Pepper spoke to the graduates about his experiences at UIS and how they prepared him for his current career with Walgreens. He ended his speech by challenging graduates to get involved.

“I am challenging you today to share your time, talents and treasures beyond your soon-to-be new or current employer, or in the pursuit of another degree, or simply with your family and friends,” said Pepper. “There are people, places and causes outside of your sphere of influence that need your time, talents and treasures.”

Zachary Sullivan, the student speaker who earned a master’s degree in political science, started his speech by thanking UIS administrators, the Board of Trustees, staffers, and friends and family for their support of his fellow students. Sullivan reflected on his time at UIS and some of the more memorable moments.

"There are so many things that we will miss," said Sullivan. "Hilarious conversations in the PAC Food Emporium, all of the Welcome Week activities on campus, the excitement felt when a major internship or a good grade would come through, and of course, the craziness known as Springfest!"

Sullivan spoke about his choice as a non-traditional transfer student to return to college and first earn his bachelor’s and now his master’s degree from UIS. He spoke about the numerous leadership opportunities available to UIS students and how those experiences have changed him. He ended his speech by asking his fellow students to take Leadership lived a step further.

“We now possess the tools and know-how to make profound differences in our world,” said Sullivan. “Utilize these traits, and you will be fine. By getting involved on our communities, we can make this world a better place. It will require a lot of hard work, but in the long run, it will be worth it to you, and to those around you.”

Also at the ceremony, business leader Evelyn Brandt Thomas was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. She is the co-owner of BRANDT, a multi-million dollar international agriculture company based in Springfield.

University of Illinois Trustee Karen Hasara, UIS Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Lynn Pardie, UIS Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Tim Barnett, and UIS alumni speaker John Lowder also took part in the ceremony.

Photos and more video are available at the commencement website:

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