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More than 2,000 graduate from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

siuegraduation2018Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Chancellor Randy Pembrook oversaw the 2018 Spring Commencement exercises Friday and Saturday, May 4-5 for 2,091 eligible graduates. All the ceremonies are available on

Pembrook saluted the graduates for their community service and commitment to shaping a changing world. The complimented the students on their approach to making a difference and resolving injustice in the world. He quoted Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

The exercises began Friday morning with School of Business students receiving their undergraduate degrees. Brian Watson, who earned a bachelor’s in business economics and finance, was the student speaker.

Watson chose to echo the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

“As diverse as this group is, the reasons we all chose SIUE are even more diverse,” Watson continued. “But, we all did, and we have been changed for good! SIUE has provided us with the environment and opportunities we needed to grow and develop into the accomplished, eager, passionate and motivated people we are today.”

Former SIUE Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the School of Nursing ceremony Friday afternoon. Vandegrift delivered advice on three points. “Seek professional opportunities that will fulfill your potential, even if they frighten you. According to President Calvin Coolidge, the most common commodity in this country is unrealized potential. Be an active person. Remember the adage, if you want something done, ask a busy person. Continue to build on areas of strength and recognize areas where additional support is needed.”

He finished by quoting Thomas Edison, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration … so, work hard.”

For the first time, the School of Nursing combined its traditional pinning ceremony with commencement. Wesley Gallagher, who earned a doctorate in nursing practice/nurse anesthesia, served as the student speaker. He told the story of his own life challenges in attaining his degree and called upon the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world today.”

“Just as the SIUE School of Nursing has made a difference in our lives, we must now make a difference in the lives of others,” Gallagher continued. “To the students from the Graduate School, we must utilize the theoretical and clinical knowledge we have honed at SIUE to take our seat at the table with the rest of the healthcare leaders. We must not wish for a solution, but be the solution, to the innumerable problems that exist in this country’s healthcare system. To the undergraduates, this point in your journey is not the end; it is the beginning.”

The Graduate School concluded the first day. David Groves Jr., who earned a master’s in Education/College Student Personnel Administration, was the student speaker. The Graduate School ceremony included all graduate students except for those in the Schools of Nursing and Pharmacy.

Groves overcame a lack of support at another institution before arriving at SIUE and flourishing. He used music as inspiration. “I’m leaving SIUE with the necessary tools to pursue a career in student affairs where I can inspire students, like myself, who are sometimes just in need of a strong mentor,” he said. “One of the primary things that got me to this point was music. It constantly provided the motivation that tomorrow would occur, as long as I prepared for today.

“Not only music, but my family who also are all present today, friends who constantly provided laughter in times of fear, CSPA family, and mentors such as Dr. Earleen Patterson and Dr. Jessica Harris. I know we all have people in this room who have offered us guidance and support along this journey. For that, we thank you!”

Ceremonies resumed this morning with the School of Education, Health and Human Behavior. The morning student speaker was Mario Kassa, who received a bachelor’s in exercise science. The international student said, “Our education and experiences at SIUE have made us well-rounded and competitive applicants for whatever we decide to pursue in life. The diversity and inclusion fostered on this campus have allowed us to be our true selves, while embracing the differences of our fellow Cougars.

“Some of you have left your home countries to receive an education at SIUE. You had to navigate the challenges associated with life in a new country. Some of you have dual responsibilities, like raising a family while working full time. Some of us are first generation college students or non-traditional students. These diverse stories and backgrounds have shaped each of our journeys, and ultimately, the SIUE experience.”

The first College of Arts and Sciences session began the afternoon session. The student speaker was Hannah Smith, who earned a bachelor’s in political science.

Smith explained how her grandmother purposefully sees the good in everyone she encounters. “You see, we will always have one of two choices in life: we can choose to look at the sunshine in our lives, or become fixated on the shadows. The same extends to how we view one another. I believe the heroes in our lives are those who bring us that constant sense of optimism and hope, our personal sunshine. At Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, it seems I have met so many of those amazing individuals.”

Vietnam War veteran and Bronze Star recipient, Senator William “Bill” Haine was honored with the University’s Distinguished Service Award during the first CAS ceremony. He described life as a series of adventures and that the graduates had just completed one. “My advice to you is seek out adventure and take chances,” Haine said.

Also for the first time, the School of Pharmacy combined its traditional hooding ceremony with commencement in the Morris University Center’s Meridian Ballroom. Jamal Sims, who earned a doctorate in pharmacy, provided the student address.

Sims recalled their journeys as pharmacy students and asked them to remember that “all of our stories are different and we all encountered different obstacles on our journey to graduation. But, those obstacles made us all stronger students and now stronger pharmacists. Be sure to take this into account when it comes to our patients. They will all have different struggles, different backgrounds and different beliefs. Don’t judge. Be patient. Be understanding and be empathetic.

“It is imperative that we take action in our day-to-day lives as practicing pharmacists to positively impact the lives of those we work with and our patients.”

The exercises concluded with the second session of CAS students and the School of Engineering. Corwin Fritts, who earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering, was the final student speaker.

Fritts discussed overcoming self-doubt during his freshman year to persevere and successfully achieve a degree. “Today, we will walk across this stage and be handed our hard-earned degree. Some might call it a very expensive piece of paper, but I disagree!

“Our degree is a symbol of all we have learned, how we have grown and what we have accomplished. We cannot fit the knowledge we have accumulated here on a piece of paper. We cannot put our friends that we have gained on a piece of paper. We cannot put the life skills that we have cultivated on a piece of paper. Men and woman have spent their lives condensing these things into novels! Our degree is a symbol of what we are capable of – and that constant reminder is incredibly valuable.”

SIUE photo from Facebook

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