May 09, 2020

SIU Carbondale virtual commencement ceremony features alumnus Bob Odenkirk

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Traditional commencement ceremonies may have been postponed, but Southern Illinois University Carbondale graduates are still being recognized in a virtual ceremony featuring remarks by comedian, actor, writer, director and producer Bob Odenkirk. 

Odenkirk, a 1984 SIU alumnus, had been scheduled to receive an honorary doctor of performing arts degree during May 9 commencement ceremonies. He didn’t hesitate when the university asked if he would consider recording a message for graduates, according to Chancellor John M. Dunn.

“We’re grateful that Bob Odenkirk was willing to share his comedic talent and advice with graduates,” Dunn said. “Humor, thoughtfulness and compassion are all essential to maintaining a positive outlook during challenging times.”

Odenkirk earned his first Emmy in 1989 as a writer with Saturday Night Live. He won the Screen Actors Guild Award for an Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for his work on the television show “Breaking Bad” and was nominated for an Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Jimmy McGill in “Better Call Saul.”

Future in-person ceremony planned

SIU decided in March that face-to-face ceremonies scheduled for May 9 were not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on a survey of graduates asking about their preferences for alternatives, the university is planning to host a traditional, in-person ceremony in August or December.

Still, SIU officials didn’t want to let the day pass without acknowledging the more than 2,100 students scheduled to graduate.

“Commencement is an academic tradition celebrating the achievements of our graduates with faculty, family and friends,” Dunn said. “Graduates told us it was important to have an in-person ceremony in the future, and we will do so. At the same time, we wanted to be sure they knew we were thinking of them with pride on May 9.”

Virtual ceremony a team effort 

Graduates received an email message from Dunn and Meera Komarraju, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, with a link to the video. The virtual ceremony includes remarks by Dunn and Odenkirk, a look at the last few years at SIU, the conferral of degrees, and performances by School of Music students and the Marching Salukis. A list of graduating students rolls after the conferral of degrees. The schools of law and medicine have traditionally been recognized in separate ceremonies and have separate commencement plans. 

A link to an abbreviated, downloadable program was included in the email message. The program can also be downloaded at, and a printed version will be mailed with diplomas.

The virtual ceremony was produced by H.D. Motyl, faculty member and chair of the university’s radio, television and digital media department, and Mark Stoffel, digital media specialist and instructor in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts. Staff members from the Office of the Chancellor, University Communications and Marketing and Saluki Athletics contributed to the project.

The ceremony can be viewed at