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Commencement ceremony celebrates human connection

Jun 12, 2019

Accomplished, diverse and talented Class of 2019 takes next step towards brilliant future

North Central College celebrated its 154th Commencement exercises on June 8 at a time of transition and opportunity both for the College and its graduates.

A combined class of 790—701 undergraduate students and 89 graduate students—received their degrees before a packed crowd of families, friends, faculty and other supporters. Among the undergraduates, 207 graduated cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude, 31 finished the College Scholars Honors Program, and more than 200 are first-generation college students, representing 40 percent of the class.

This is the last class to graduate before the College moves to a semester-based schedule and a new general education curriculum next year.

Commencement speakers inspire and challenge

Veteran reporter, anchor and producer Jim Williams of CBS 2 Chicago gave an impassioned commencement address. Williams stressed the importance of reaching out in person, getting out from behind modern technology to interact with others and find who they are.

He said, "If you want to be your best ... you have to be empathetic, you have to know people. Their triumphs ... their challenges ... their pain. The nuanced, 360-degree view that is not captured in a tweet or a text or an Instagram photo."

Williams received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the College.

His presenter, Associate Professor of Political Science Suzanne Chod, said of Williams: "With a career spanning radio, television and Mayor (Richard M.) Daley’s press office, and through your service to organizations like The Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, you’ve channeled your compassion and wide-ranging talents into making a positive difference in the lives of all people from all backgrounds. (You are) a wonderful example for our graduates."

North Central College Commencement speaker Jim Williams is hooded by Board of Trustees Chair Jim McDermet and President Troy Hammond.

Jim Williams is hooded by Board of Trustees Chair Jim McDermet M '92 and President Troy Hammond.

Norah Flaherty ’19 stirred attendants with her student address. Flaherty, a speech communication major and All-American competitor in forensics, encouraged her fellow graduates to pursue their own genuine goals as they venture into a world of large expectations and competing influences.

"It takes a lot of courage to follow that little voice in your head because the things it wants are really tough,” Flaherty said. “Wherever you go, whatever you do, make sure it sings with your soul. Because that is the song a Cardinal sings."

North Central College Commencement speaker Norah Flaherty.

"If you want to be your best ... you have to be empathetic, you have to know people. Their triumphs ... their challenges ... their pain. The nuanced, 360-degree view that is not captured in a tweet or a text or an Instagram photo."

Jim Williams

Award winners and faculty emeriti at Commencement recognized for important contributions

Three retiring faculty were honored and received emeritus status: James Donovan, professor in the Shimer Great Books School emeritus; David Horner, Harold and Eva White Distinguished Professor in the Liberal Arts Emeritus; and Richard Paine, professor of speech communication and theatre emeritus, who has been the foundation of the North Central forensics team since 1983.

North Central College emeritus professors David Horner, James Donovan and Richard Paine.

(left to right) David Horner, James Donovan and Richard Paine.

Other highlights included the presentation of four special awards. Michael Brower ’19 received the Mark A. Reid Leadership Award, Trustee Steve Sellers ’76 was recognized with the Gael D. Swing Award for Meritorious Service, and Head Men’s Track and Field Coach Frank Gramarosso received the Harold and Eva White First Citizen of the College Award. New this year was the Dr. Marti Bogart Award for Distinguished Collaboration, which went to Schneller Sisters Professor of Leadership, Ethics & Values, Professor of Business Law, and Co-Director of the Center for Social Impact, Thomas Cavenagh.

The Mark A. Reid Leadership Award is named for Mark Reid, who was a campus leader and president of the Student Governing Association (SGA) when he was killed in an auto accident in 1984. Brower received the award by vote of the senior class for his leadership and selflessness. Brower majored in mathematics and secondary education. He’s been heavily involved with Junior/Senior Scholars, Blue Key Honor Society and in mentoring future education majors. He was also a freshmen orientation and Cardinal camp leader.

North Central College graduate Michael Brower.

Michael Brower

The Gael D. Swing Award, named for North Central’s eighth president, recognizes extraordinary contributions to the life of the College. Sellers is the owner of Applied Noetics in Batavia, Ill. In 1997, he joined the Board of Trustees, where he served as chair of the liaison committee from 2005 until 2018. He’s now serving as chair of the academic affairs committee. In addition, Sellers has been coaching in the College’s golf program since 2012, and he was named CCIW Men’s Golf Coach of the Year in 2019.

North Central College Swing Award winner Steve Sellers with President Troy Hammond.

Steve Sellers with President Hammond

The Harold and Eva White First Citizen of the College Award honors a North Central student, faculty or staff member who exemplifies the best of North Central College. Gramarosso became a full-time assistant coach at North Central College in 1985 and by 1989, the men’s track and field team won indoor and outdoor national titles. Out of a total of 12 men’s track and field national titles in College history, the team has earned five since he became head coach in 2010.

“Importantly, he is fully committed to pushing student-athletes to achieve their best, supports a team concept 100 percent, and displays a selfless attitude that permeates the program,” President Troy D. Hammond said of Gramarosso. “This program would not be where it is today without his focus, extraordinary management skills and dedication.”

North Central College White Award winner Frank Gramarosso with President Troy Hammond.

Frank Gramarosso with President Hammond

The Dr. Marti Bogart Award is presented annually to recognize a faculty member or academic administrator who bridges the important academic and student development functions of North Central College. It was established in 2018 upon the retirement of Dr. Bogart, whose esteemed career spanned 38 years. Cavenagh has directed the Leadership, Ethics and Values (LEV) program since 2006. Early in his career, he founded the Dispute Resolution Center. Cavenagh has been instrumental in helping the College launch the Center for Social Impact, achieve the Ashoka Changemaker Campus designation, create new LEV majors and minors, and land a $3.2 million grant from the Kern Foundation for character education.

North Central College Bogart Award winner Tom Cavenagh with Vice President Kimberly Sluis.

Tom Cavenagh with his presenter, Vice President for Student Affairs and Strategic Initiatives Kimberly Sluis '99.

For photos and video from the Commencement ceremony, visit northcentralcollege.edu/commencement.