Welcome from President Richard F. Wilson
I am honored to welcome you to these Commencement Exercises, concluding the 156th
year of instruction at Illinois Wesleyan University. I have enjoyed sharing in your
experiences over the past two years and am honored to preside at this very special
Four years ago, the Class of 2006 arrived in Bloomington with, I am quite certain,
a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. Each of you expected to grow academically
and personally and knew that your future would be determined, at least in part, by
what happened on this campus. What you could not predict was the impact of events
external to the campus such as:
• The Tsunamis in the Indian Ocean
• The War in Iraq
• Corporate Corruption at Enron, Arthur Andersen, and World Com.
• Hurricane Katrina
And despite all that has happened between then and now, chances are that you are experiencing
that very same mixture of anticipation and anxiety today. This time you aren’t wondering
“Will I like my roommate or have I selected the right major?” as you were when you
arrived. Instead, many of you are asking yourselves: “Have I selected the right graduate
program or made the right career choice?” A few of you may even be wondering how
you will get by without Saga Dave coming over to fix Sunday brunch.
The anxiety that comes with graduation is nothing new. You might be interested to
know that Illinois Wesleyan’s very first graduate was James Hugh Barger who received
his bachelor’s degree on July 7, 1853. According to Elmo Scott Watson’s history of
the University, Mr. Barger comprised the entire graduating class that day.
Watson goes on to write this about Mr. Barger: “…as the ‘first graduate of Illinois
Wesleyan University’ it was hoped that ‘his future career will be as bright and useful
as his friends have a right to expect.” It is hard to tell if Elmo Watson had any
anxiety about his future but his friends certainly did!
Today, we honor 486 graduates and we do expect big things from you, and with good
reason. We know what you have accomplished here and what you are capable of accomplishing
once you leave.
While this day and this ceremony properly focus on you as graduates, we must not lose
sight of the fact that you didn’t do this all alone. You had help: from your family
and your friends; from faculty and staff; and from each other. I would like to provide
an opportunity for you to thank two of these groups specifically.
• The faculty and staff are seated behind you. I would ask that you stand, turn around
and offer this group of dedicated people a round of applause.
• Now, I would invite you to turn in the direction of your parents and friends and
extend a round of applause to them as well for their help and assistance.
There is justifiably a shared pride on this occasion. We are proud, as a community,
to have been a part of your four years and to have participated in the process that
has led to your walking across this stage in a few moments.
I hope and I trust that you are proud, too. Proud of what you have accomplished and
of the person you have become. But proud, too, to join more than 16,000 Illinois
Wesleyan alumni who are scattered across the globe.
It is now my honor to present to you another member of our community, the President
of our Board of Trustees, a distinguished Illinois Wesleyan graduate, George Vinyard.
from President Wilson
Now comes my moment to bid you farewell. In a moment, we will rise and sing the Alma
Mater, which you first sang at your Opening Convocation in August, 2002. You’ve had
plenty of time to practice since then, so we expect a much better rendition today.
Following the alma mater, Chaplain Groh will give the benediction.
It has been a very great privilege for me to be part of your lives over the past two
years. In the short time that we have been together, I have come to appreciate the
many special talents and skills that exist in this class.
You should know that we will miss you. We will miss your intelligence and your passion,
displayed each day in classrooms and laboratories; we will miss your creativity, developed
in the practice rooms and studios; and we will miss your perseverance and dedication,
witnessed on the stage and on the playing fields. We have shared in your disappointments
and celebrated your achievements.
You may leave the campus today but your story remains. We hope you will return often
to help us write the next chapter.
You know there are challenges ahead — for you as individuals and for us as a society.
But I believe you will relish those challenges, that you will see them as opportunities
to apply the lessons that you h
ave learned here and the values that you have nurtured here. Most importantly, I
hope you will use your knowledge and skills to make a difference in the world.
I lift my hat to the Class of 2006. May you leave this campus filled with wisdom,
focused on goodness, and fired with enthusiasm!
Congratulations and Godspeed.