Sunday, May 17, 2015

44th UIS Commencement ceremony breaks records

The University of Illinois Springfield held its 44th Commencement ceremony on May 16, 2015 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in downtown Springfield. A record 967 students took part in the ceremony, making it the largest commencement in the university’s history.

UIS Chancellor Susan J. Koch presided over the ceremony, welcoming over 6,000 guests.

“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 culminates today with this milestone. Congratulations!”

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

She was joined on the stage by campus leaders and University of Illinois President Robert A. Easter who offered advice to students during his final UIS commencement address.

“As a fellow U of I alum, I know that you’ve nurtured the talents here that will help you make all of the right decisions,” said Easter. “You are on the cusp of great opportunity. Some of you will take advantage of every chance and do incredible things. Others may decide to relax and let the world go by. It’s your choice.”

At the end of the ceremony, President Easter officially passed leadership responsibilities to President-designate Timothy L. Killeen during a ceremonial medallion transfer.

The 2015 Commencement address was delivered by UIS alum Thom Serafin founder and CEO of Serafin & Associates, Inc., a leading Chicago communications, media relations and public affairs firm. Before starting his own business, Serafin enjoyed a successful career as a political/legislative correspondent covering the Illinois General Assembly. He has advised numerous high-profile national and state policy makers.

As an undergraduate, Serafin assisted his professor and mentor, future U.S. Senator Paul Simon, in launching the now renowned UIS Public Affairs Reporting Program.

The student commencement address was delivered by Blake Hudson, who earned a master’s degree in public administration. He has attended UIS since 2012 and was in the Illinois Legislative Studies Internship program where he spent a year working for the state senate Republican staff. He’s also part of the Whitney M. Young Fellowship program.

Hudson is the CEO of, a family owned online clothing company for figure skaters and hockey players. Hudson also owns and operates “Bright Start Consulting,” a firm dedicated to helping teenagers and young adults find their purpose and achieve success in life.

Hudson shared with the audience his own personal story of growing up in a neighborhood filled with violent crime and his mother’s cancer diagnosis. At one point, while attending community college, he was working six different jobs at the same time.

He encouraged his fellow graduates to endure and transform obstacles into opportunities and to enjoy the new environment that they create.

University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chairman Edward McMillan, UIS Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Lynn Pardie and UIS Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Clarice Ford also spoke at the ceremony.

Photos and more video are available at the commencement website:

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