Elmhurst University Celebrates 153rd Commencement

May 18, 2024 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

Amid summerlike temperatures and a merciful absence of cicadas, Elmhurst University held its 153rd Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 18, for the Class of 2024.

During three ceremonies held throughout the day, nearly 820 undergraduate and graduate students walked across the stage to accept their diplomas, out of approximately 1,094 Elmhurst students who earned degrees.

As he welcomed the graduating seniors, President Troy D. VanAken recognized that most had missed out on their high graduation ceremonies four years ago because of the COVID pandemic.

“So on behalf of the entire University community, it is our privilege to be with you today to celebrate this most important occasion!” he said.

At the ceremony for graduate students, master’s degrees were awarded in the fields of business, education, health care and technology. An honorary doctorate of law was awarded to alumna Alpha M. Brady ’83, executive director and chief operating officer of the American Bar Association (ABA), the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world.

In her commencement address, Brady, the first woman of color to lead the ABA, described the nurturing relationships she developed as an Elmhurst student and the impact they would have on her career and life. She urged the graduates to cherish their relationships, especially with the “balcony people” who would always root for them.

“As beautiful as this campus is, and as rigorous as the curricula may be, it is the relationships you formed here that will truly shape your lives,” she said. “Whether it is the friends who will become lifelong connections, the professors who opened you up to new perspectives and challenged you to unleash your inner potential, or the advisors and mentors who offered guidance and encouragement throughout your time here, the relationships you have forged are one of the most valuable investments you could have made.”

At the ceremonies for the University’s undergraduate students, an honorary doctorate of humane letters was awarded to alumnus William Panici ’61, an award-winning real estate agent in Washington, D.C., and a former professor of foreign languages.

During his address to the graduates, Panici spoke about his transformative study abroad experience in France as an Elmhurst student, and how it led him to pursue two successful careers, first as a university professor and later as a realtor and historic preservationist.

“My experience opened my mind to show me how much people elsewhere are striving for the same things we strive for … but simply happen to be doing it in a different way,” he said. “Living and studying abroad will open up a new perspective for you as well.”

“So keep your options open. Find that hidden talent and explore it. You never know where it will lead you,” he said. “And it might lead you down a path you never imagined, resulting in greater success and happiness to boot.”

President VanAken emphasized that the University community the students joined as they began their journey at Elmhurst, and the knowledge and skills they acquired along the way, would contribute to enduring success for both the students and the institution.

“The imprint you have left on Elmhurst University is as unique and individual as each of you,” he said, “but combined, they create a legacy—one that is rich in traditions, has made a meaningful impact on our campus, and is strengthened by each student who has chosen to join us.”

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