From IWU Magazine, Summer 2013 edition
In addition to Juan Salgado’s keynote address, the University’s 163rd Commencement
ceremonies on May 5 were marked by several other memorable speeches. Here are some
highlights from those remarks (with photos by IWU Photographer Marc Featherly).
George Vinyard (above left) presents civil rights pioneer and educator Robert Parris
Moses (center) with an honorary-degree hood as Moses is congratulated by President
George Vinyard ’71, chair of the Illinois Wesleyan Board of Trustees
… As an institution of higher learning, we strive to help our students develop the
curiosity and intellectual and moral capacity to think deeply about the important
things in life and to live in a manner that is consistent with the best values as
reflected in our motto — Scientia et Sapientia — generally translated, “Knowledge and Wisdom.” …
But all of this is rather abstract. The recent passing of the great film critic Roger
Ebert reminds us that the specific ways in which we perceive the world and express
ourselves in it are vitally important.
In his book Life Itself, Ebert wrote: “I was born inside the movie of my life. The visuals were before me,
the audio surrounded me, the plot unfolded inevitably but not necessarily. I don’t
remember how I got into the movie, but it continues to entertain me.”
And he also said this: “Kindness covers all of my political beliefs. … If, at the
end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier,
and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do.
… We must try to contribute joy to the world.”
May each of you not only be the principal actor in the movie of your life, but also
have the good fortune to be the writer and director, with total creative control.
And may you be blessed with joyous audiences and kind critics. …
Meghan Burke addresses the "dorks."
Meghan Burke, assistant professor of sociology and 2013 Student Senate Professor of
… I’m here to tell you that you’re all a bunch of dorks.
Now, this may sound like depressing news. But instead I want you to see it as a badge
of honor. You see, you are not geeks. Geeks are full of zest but don’t have the goods
to back it up. In your time here at Illinois Wesleyan you have learned to fuse your
passions with knowledge, careful insight, and your growing expertise in the fields
that you once merely “geeked out” over.
You’re also not nerds. Nerds have all the information and technical expertise, but
little to no perspective or passion. Even as you have developed specialized knowledge,
learned technical jargon and received advanced training, you have refused to become
narrow or insular. You’ve studied abroad, worked with a faculty member on research
to ask and answer questions far more difficult than those you started with, closed
the books to take in a provocative theatre or musical performance, and even wrote
some poetry along the way.
No, for these reasons, you are dorks. Dorks are the epitome of the liberal arts tradition.
You are math dorks with a vision to share with others its elegance and its philosophy.
You are trained in medical fields with an eye toward both disparities and innovations.
You are a business student who partnered with the local community, and came away with
a new definition of growth. You have studied literature and made connections to your
political science courses; you are a sociologist who understands biologically what
Foucault meant by the “capillary functioning of power.” You have begun to follow developments
in your field in your spare time, discussing what you learn and care about with your
friends and your family. You can likewise talk to your friends in other fields, and
tell jokes in French or in Spanish. Only dorks can really achieve this balance of
knowledge, perspective and passion. Only dorks can truly embrace the kind of education
you’ve received here at Illinois Wesleyan, and we know from our alums, even those
dorks just a year or two out, that it will serve you well in your future. …
Smiling for the camera were Ted Delicath, class of 2013 president (far right), and
others who helped spearhead efforts to promote participation in this year’s senior
class gift. A record 70 percent of the class contributed to the gift, an aquascape.
Remarks of Class President
Ted Delicath ’13
… My relative youth and life’s unpredictability hinder me from providing you with
specific advice, so I believe the only way to properly proceed is to begin where many
Wesleyan speeches end, with that ever-so-frequently cited Minor Myers quote. Before
you tune out, I promise I don’t want to travel the traditional path. Instead, I want
explore what our former president meant when he asked all Wesleyan students to, “Go
into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.”
… I fear we see doing good as a specific set of tasks that involve charity and volunteerism.
The building of houses and serving at soup kitchens certainly do good. They humble
us and teach us to have empathy. But doing good is more than an act, it is an outlook
on life; an optimistic approach to problem solving that looks at circumstances in
terms of assets rather than flaws. Doing good is when a single mother or father must
go it alone and doesn’t allow their children or themselves to use their adverse circumstance
as a crutch. Doing good is when a family in Uganda gives the only white kid in the
village a bed and teaches you that happiness is not contingent on cable or Wi-Fi.
For me the most impactful example of doing good comes from my hero — and for those
of you that have heard me talk about Andrew Weishar (a member of the class of 2013,
who died in October 2012) in the past, I’m sorry, but such a grand figure deserves
further mention on a grand stage: When pitted against terminal circumstances, Andrew
said, “I’m not done fighting yet.” His optimism in the face of seemingly hopeless
conditions exemplifies that we can do good, but more importantly, that we must.
I admit that my conception of good is a little different than most, but I urge you
to consider it. Because without the sequential layering of optimism, on top of empathy
that leads to action, I don’t believe we will have the passion or the motivation to
do good. …