Welcome from President Richard F. Wilson

Commencement 2006

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 ceremony.

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.

Closing Remarks
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 have 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.