BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Illinois Wesleyan University celebrated more than 400 graduating
members of the Class of 2019 during Commencement exercises on Sunday, May 5.
Standing on the Glenn ’22 and Rozanne Parker Kemp ’27 Commencement Plaza under a sunny
sky in front of State Farm Hall, outgoing Board of Trustees President George Vinyard
’71 congratulated the graduates and cited Robert M. Pirsig’s fictional autobiography
titled Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Within the book, Pirsig writes “You look at where you’re going and where you are
and it never makes sense, but then you look at where you’ve been and a pattern seems
After reading this philosophical thought to the crowd, Vinyard said, “In your time
here on campus we trust that you not only developed your intellects but also cultivated
the essential curiosity, perceptiveness and values to set a pattern that will serve
you well as you strive to live with care and create a future of greater knowledge,
wisdom, quality and personal fulfillment.”
Outgoing President of the Alumni Association Board of Directors Scott Huch ’86 welcomed
the Class of 2019 to a network of more than 23,000 living alumni in all 50 states
and the District of Columbia, plus 52 other countries around the world. Huch also
shared a personal anecdote. If he could go back in time to his own graduation from
Illinois Wesleyan in 1986 and change just one thing, Huch said he would have flossed
his teeth more between then and now.
“I’ve learned that very small actions –– when undertaken diligently and consistently
on a regular basis over a very long period of time –– when their collective effect
is considered, those small actions can make a massive impact that cannot be achieved
through any other method,” Huch said. “The biggest mistake is doing nothing because
you can only do a little. I hope you’ll keep that in mind as opportunities come along
to stay connected with Illinois Wesleyan.”
Class of 2019 President Alani Sweezy ’19 reflected upon her journey as an Illinois
Wesleyan student that began 1,325 days prior to Sunday’s Commencement ceremony. She
also spoke about the next big endeavor which is about to begin for Sweezy and her
fellow graduating classmates.
“Since we were little, we were often told that we were the leaders of tomorrow, that
we would be able to change the world,” Sweezy said. “As we graduate today, we can
no longer say that we’ll do it tomorrow or help make changes in the future. We must
begin to do it today.”
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology and Class of 2019 Professor of the Year Sheryl
Soukup shared life lessons told within the context of human anatomy. Soukup spoke
of melanocytes that make the brown pigment of human skin which provides adjacent cells
with protection against the sun’s harmful rays.
“Be generous to those around you.” Soukup said in relation to melanocytes. “Like the
melanocyte, give of yourself to better the lives of others.”
Soukup shared another lesson taken from the anatomy of human bones which are constantly
being reworked on a cellular level. Cells known as osteoblasts continuously build
new bone, while osteoclasts routinely break bone down.
“Every day we have a choice to be an osteoblast –– a person who builds up others through
encouragement, kindness, and friendship –– or an osteoclast –– one who tears down
others with careless or even harsh words or actions,” Soukup said. “Choose to be an
osteoblast, an encourager and supporter of those around you. The world needs more
Soukup concluded by speaking broadly about the human body. She said our amazing assemblage
of bones is of no use without muscles to move us.
“Each of the body’s systems has a special purpose, but each would be useless without
the assistance and special functions of the other systems of the body,” Soukup said.
“In the same way, each of us has unique gifts and abilities, but unless we work together
with others who offer different talents, our efforts are often futile.”
In his address tilted “Scientia et Sapientia” –– Illinois Wesleyan’s motto which translates
to “knowledge and wisdom” –– Dr. Ondra distinguished between the two words.
“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is actually a fruit. Wisdom is knowing it does
not belong in your fruit salad,” Dr. Ondra said with a laugh. He continued by congratulating
the graduates who grew up in the shadow of the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 which
forced families to scrutinize the value of college.
“The fact is, a Liberal Arts education has never been more important to your future
and there is no better investment in time or money that you and your families could
have made,” Dr. Ondra said. He cited a statistic which says that at the end of World
War II, human knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today, Dr. Ondra said, our knowledge
of the world doubles every 12 to 13 months.
“Within your lifetime, it will very likely be doubling every single day,” Dr. Ondra
said. “The result will be that many professions and entire industries will fundamentally
transform in a single lifetime.
“With that in mind, it is clear that the skill of continual learning, that is at the
core of a liberal arts education, isn’t just a nice thing, it will be an essential
thing,” Dr. Ondra continued. “It will allow you to reinvent yourselves when needed,
to not just cope with changes in your workplace or the world around you, but to embrace
and take advantage of the opportunities that will open up in ways that none of us
Dr. Ondra congratulated the Class of 2019 on becoming the “innovators, thinkers and
leaders of tomorrow.”
“Whatever life brings, I have great confidence that Illinois Wesleyan has prepared
you for it,” Dr. Ondra said. “Go out and make a great fruit salad.”
President Eric Jensen told the graduates that it was a privilege for he and his wife,
Elizabeth, to see students in the Class of 2019 through their collective Illinois
“The first year on campus for today’s graduates was my first year on campus, and so
it’s especially sweet to have the opportunity to award diplomas to you all. We’re
kind of classmates,” Jensen said with a smile.
“You’re a spectacular group who will always have a prominent place in my memories.
My parting words to you are simple: Remember who you are, remember how you got there,
and remember Illinois Wesleyan.”