A group of North Central College graduates celebrating.

North Central News

North Central College celebrates 2023 graduates

Olivia Rosenberg '25

May 31, 2023

North Central College’s 158th Commencement was held Sunday, May 7, with 719 graduates making up the Class of 2023 — 597 undergraduates and 122 master’s degree recipients.

The ceremony was held inside the College’s Residence Hall/Recreation Center. The class of 2023 included 258 first-generation college students, 236 students who had transferred to North Central from another institution, and 271 students who graduated with honors. Among the master’s degrees conferred, 40 percent were in health sciences and 60 percent were in leadership for education, business or sport organizations.

Among the highlights from the ceremony:

Interim President Donna M. Carroll, a veteran of more than 80 commencement ceremonies, celebrated her first at North Central and quite possibly the last in her distinguished career. In her welcome to the 2023 graduates she told them, “It has been said that ‘compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things. As you cross this stage today and begin the next stage of your life, I hope that your North Central education has expanded both your curiosity and your compassion.

I hope that it has sparked in you a concern for the common good, as well as a drive to be successful professionally. And, most importantly, I hope that the learning process has left you restless– seeking to create a more just, human and sustainable world.”

Provost Abiodun Goke-Pariola introduced this year’s student speaker, Diego Ilan Mateo ’23 from Joliet, Ill., who received a bachelor of arts degree in music education. During his years at North Central, Mateo was an active member of the music department and orientation staff as well as a national champion in forensics.

“Remember, life is about choices,” he said. “Cardinals, your wings are a map. A map of where you have been and what it took to get here. And now, all of you can fly.”

Interim President Donna Carroll welcomes the graduates.

interim President Donna M. Carroll

Goke-Pariola presented Dr. Robert “Tad” Lehe, professor of philosophy, for the conferment of emeritus status. Described as “part of the very foundation of North Central College,” Lehe served the college for more than 40 years as a teacher, mentor, scholar, and leader among his colleague.

Dr. Marci Swede, dean of the School of Education and Health Sciences, presented Dr. Carmen Ayala, the former superintendent for the Illinois State Board of Education, with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Ayala delivered the commencement address.

“Don’t be afraid to go through those doors,” she told graduates. “Don’t be afraid to step in – the waters are warm. You will always have individuals to help you through.”

Dr. Kathy Birkett, member of the Board of Trustees, was presented with the 2023 Gael D. Swing Award for Meritorious Service for her work as the chair of the Presidential Search Committee.

Dr. Stephen Maynard Caliendo, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, presented one of two Harold and Eva White First Citizen of the College Awards to Dorothy Pleas, associate dean of students and director of multicultural affairs.

Dr. Diane Bruce, dean of the School of Business and Entrepreneurship, gave the other First Citizen of the College Award to Dr. Peter Barger, associate provost and director of institutional effectiveness and planning as well as a professor of economics and finance.

Naperville mayor and North Central alumnus Scott Wehrli ’91 offered his congratulations to the graduates on behalf of the city.

“Failure is how you grow,” Wehrli said. “Everything you learned and experienced at North Central is just the start of new experiences. Mistakes can and will be made. This is how we all learn.”

Dr. Holly Humphrey ’79, chair of the North Central College Board of Trustees, welcomed the Class of 2023 to the North Central alumni community on behalf of all Cardinal graduates.

“We have cheered you on through all your successes,” she said. “Now it’s your turn to share in the success of all the future students of this institution.”

To hear from more speakers, watch the graduates walk the stage, and catch up with all the other activities from Commencement weekend, visit our Commencement web page.

Two North Central College graduates greet one another.