Blackburn’s 150th commencement celebrated
By: JORDAN GRUCZA
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
A strong wind arrived on the morning of Blackburn College’s 150th commencement ceremony on Saturday, and between that and the bright sun and billowing U.S. flag, it set an apt stage for the messages of undeterred hope the speakers brought.
“There is a lot to celebrate,” said Blackburn President Julie Murray-Jensen. “Of course you’ve all had individual accomplishments and victories, but you are also a remarkable class. I think especially at Blackburn, this class has learned to overcome obstacles and in my view that has made you stronger for the world.”
Murray-Jensen named Angela Andrews as the 2019 Student Marshal, the highest honor faculty can bestow on students. She also announced co-valedictorians for Blackburn’s commencement: Ashley Faye Holcomb and Vanessa Lea Reed, as well as Connor David Doolem as the salutatorian.
State Senator and Bunker Hill resident Andy Manar was the commencement speaker, who Murray-Jensen introduced as a “mover and shaker” in the state of Illinois and described his passion for education, having reformed the state’s “worst-in-the-nation” school funding formula.
“If I could paint a picture of hope,” said Manar, framing the class of 2019 with his hands, “I would take this picture and paint it. This is what hope looks like to me.
“All too often your generation gets picked on,” said Manar. “Is there anything bad that young people are not responsible for these days? Is it as bad as the headlines suggest? I think the underlying words between these articles is that they see your generation and what you have the ability to accomplish as a threat. They see it as a threat because you are not afraid to stand up, you are not afraid to speak out, and you are not afraid to challenge the status quo.
“And what is most important to me is that you are a generation that understands that disagreeing without waging war is a strength we have as a society.”
Manar closed his speech on a note of encouragement to the graduating class to participate in collective acts of kindness, and not to wait for others to change things for the better.
Diplomas were presented to the following students: The Senators Vince and Deanna Demuzio Award in Leadership Studies – Logan Elliot; The Senators Vince and Deanna Demuzio Award in Education – Austin Ives; Allison Economic Award – Bradley Todd Hill; Stoddard Prize – Connor Doolen; Wray Business Administration Prize – Bradley Todd Hill; Anna Deschu Prize in Elementary Education – Vanessa Reed; Virgil G Bretthauer Mathematics Prize – Ashley Holcomb; Computer Science Prize – Ashley Faye Holcomb; Political Science Prize – Fatima Noor; Baird-Ziegler Prize – Vanessa Lea Reed; Humanities Prize – Stefanie Nicole Everett; Bierd Senior Honor Prize – Ashley Faye Holcomb and Vanessa Lea Reed; and the Samuels-Werner Biology Prize – Samuel Devan Scheid.
Summa cum laude: Rebeca Ann Acosta, Carley Brianne Brown, Bradley Todd Hill, Austin William Ives, Gariel Jennifer Pierce, and Andrea Nicole Weeks.
Every year the Outstanding Faculty Award Hudson Prize is presented to the faculty member who has made a difference in the teaching climate, displayed model classroom teaching, campus leadership and efective advising. This year the award was given to Tena Krause.
The Outstanding Graduate Award is an award nominated by the recipient’s peers, selected by the Blackburn Alumni Association Board of Directors. This award requires qualities of leadership and a positive work ethic. The recipient for this year’s award was Brandon Lewis. Lewis is a study abroad participant, MLK award recipient, Men of Blackburn member and founder of the Black Student Union.
Magna cum laude: Trenton Kaleb Allen, Aaron Patrick Bernhardt, Erin Elaine Boehm, Logan Jacob Elliott, Stefanie Nicole Everett, Jaclyn M. Hellums, Kimberly Kaitlynn Hollinshead, Olivia Kathryn Mapes, Cristopher Caine Miller, Abbie Lee Rister, Samuel Devan Scheid, and Alanni LeAnne Young.
Cum laude: Angela Michelle Andrews, Jensen Marie Ballinger, Haley Renee Biere, Brooke Michelle Boehme, William James Bradley Deters, Joseph Louis Dopuch, Hetra Inez Dufner, Veronica Tess Lee, Alexander Thomas Alan McAuley, Chase Bradley Peterson, Johnathon Troy Shaw, Joseph Carl Thielemann, Cassandra Emilie Trask, and Michael Stuart Troutt.
Senator Andy Manar delivered a message of hope for the future and a defense of the millenial generation. Enquirer-Democrat photo by Jordan Grucza.