May 04, 2015

‘Forever SIU,’ commencement set for May 15-16

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale commencement ceremonies are set for Saturday, May 16. 

The third “Forever SIU: A Commencement Celebration” on Friday, May 15, will celebrate the members of the Class of 2015 and their families.  Festivities are set for 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the SIU Arena parking lot. SIU President Randy Dunn will welcome graduates and their families.  The festivities will include the Chicago-based cover band, Mike and Joe, and a light meal will be provided. Additional refreshments and items will be available for purchase from local vendors.

There are 3,134 candidates for degrees as of April 28, including: 2,131 candidates for bachelor’s degrees, 721 candidates for master’s degrees, 136 candidates for doctoral degrees, 83 law degree candidates, and 63 candidates for associate degrees.

Three separate commencement ceremonies will be at the SIU Arena on Saturday, May 16, for undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar and current Gov. Bruce Rauner, along with SIU Carbondale alumnus and retired United Airlines Capt. William R. “Bill” Norwood, are the featured commencement speakers.

Commencement ceremonies are open to the public, and there is no ticket requirement. Each ceremony will be available via livestream at

Here is the schedule of the ceremonies, with their keynote speaker:

  • 9 a.m. – College of Agricultural Sciences, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science, School of Medicine. Edgar is the commencement speaker and will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Arts degree. Michael J. “Mike” Lawrence, former director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, and surgeon and university philanthropist Dr. Marsha G. Ryan, will receive distinguished service awards.
  • 1:30 p.m. -- College of Business, College of Education and Human Services. Rauner is the commencement speaker, and the late Dixie Fortis will receive an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree posthumously.
  • 5:30 p.m. -- College of Applied Sciences and Arts, College of Engineering, College of Mass Communication and Media Arts. Alumnus and retired United Airlines Capt. William R. Norwood, a former member of the SIU Board of Trustees, is the commencement speaker and will receive an honorary Doctor of Aviation Science.

The SIU School of Law is holding its commencement ceremony at 3 p.m., Friday, May 15, in Shryock Auditorium. U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengal, a 1993 law school graduate, is the commencement speaker.

Here is a brief glimpse of the commencement speakers, honorary degree recipients, and distinguished service recipients.

Edgar, formerly Illinois’ secretary of state, was elected to the first of his two consecutive terms as governor in 1990. As governor, he eliminated $1 billion of unpaid health bills, provided income tax relief and left $1.5 billion in the treasury for his successor when he left office. In 1994 he was re-elected by the widest plurality of any incumbent governor. After retiring, he was a resident fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and spearheads the Edgar Fellows program. He lectures at the University of Illinois, where he is a distinguished fellow at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs, and is president emeritus of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.

Lawrence covered the Illinois statehouse, politics and government for nearly two decades, including serving as state capital bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. He also worked for Edgar for 10 years, as press secretary and senior policy adviser -- first in the secretary of state’s office and then in the governor’s office. Lawrence joined the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute as associate director in 1998, becoming director following Simon’s death in 2003. He retired from the university in 2009. 

Ryan served on the SIU Foundation board of directors from 1992 to 2013, which included serving as board chair and as chair of the university’s first-ever comprehensive capital campaign. A 1987 graduate of the SIU School of Law, Ryan has served on the SIU Alumni Association Board, the School of Law Board of Visitors, and the School of Art and Design Board. Together with her husband, John, Ryan established the Bioethicist-in-Residence at the law school’s Center for Health Law and Policy.

Rauner was sworn in as Illinois governor in January 2015. A native of Illinois, Rauner, a self-made businessman, attended Dartmouth College where he graduated with top honors, and then earned an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Rauner worked at a startup investment company, Golder, Thoma, Cressey (later GTCR), helping build the firm, which oversees retirement investments of first responders, teachers and other Illinois workers.

Fortis, a Christopher native and graduate of Elkville High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communication from SIU Carbondale in 1955. She enjoyed a distinguished career in advertising. Her positions included creative director of the New Products Group at McCann Erickson, which at the time was the world’s largest advertising agency. In 1980, she and her husband, Jerry Fortis, established their own firm, Fortis Advertising, Inc., in Chicago. She earned numerous awards for her work, including election into the Chicago Women’s Hall of Fame, and was a founding member of the Chicago Women’s Network. Fortis passed away in August 2013. 

Norwood, a 1959 SIU Carbondale graduate, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1959 to 1965, piloting a B-52. He then had a 31-year career with United Airlines, becoming the company’s first African-American pilot and the first to achieve the rank of captain.  He is a founding member of the Organization of Black Airline Pilots and served on the SIU Board of Trustees from 1974 to 2001.  In 2008, he was named a Lincoln Laureate, the state’s highest civilian honor. Norwood was the university’s first black quarterback, a three-year starter and an inductee into the SIU Carbondale Hall of Fame. He recently published his memoir, “Cleared for Takeoff: A Pilot’s Story of Challenges and Triumphs.” 

More than 430 students will wear special medallions and honor cords during the ceremonies that reflect significant academic achievement.  Among the 437 students earning recognition, 237 will receive Cum Laude distinction, signifying a cumulative GPA of 3.5 to 3.749; 107 will receive Magna Cum Laude distinction, signifying a cumulative GPA of 3.75 to 3.899, and 71 students will receive Summa Cum Laude distinction, carrying a cumulative GPA of 3.9 to 4.0.  There were also 13 students in the University Honors Program who maintained an average GPA of 3.3 and 11 SIU Carbondale student-athletes who earned Latin honors. 

In addition, graduating student military veterans will wear red, white and blue cords provided by the university in recognition of their sacrifice, commitment and service to our country.