DECATUR — Millikin University’s winter commencement Sunday saw 130 graduates earn the best Christmas gift of all: a degree.
But amid the cheers and applause inside a packed Kirkland Fine Arts Center, there were voices urging graduates not to rest on their new academic laurels.
Student speaker Jonathan Williamsen II of Beecher set the tone by looking to Italian Renaissance genius Michelangelo, the creator of artworks regarded as masterpieces in the history of mankind.
“But Michelangelo said ‘ancora imparo,’ I am still learning,” said Williamsen, 21, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human services and plans to be a social worker.
He told the Kirkland audience that they must model their lives in the spirit of Michelangelo and keep the passion for knowledge and personal growth burning bright. “… You will always be learning, you will always be growing, you will always be evolving …” he added.
One new area of growth at Millikin University is the school’s nurse anesthesia studies in partnership with Decatur Memorial Hospital. The master’s degree course saw its first students graduate Sunday and one of them, Tiffany Kloeppel from Savoy, was another student speaker focused on striding into the future with purpose.
She talked of the sacrifices students had made to get where they are but now was the time to achieve with the advantages Millikin had given them. She said every commencement needed a good quote and she found hers in the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
“ ‘You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose,’ ” Kloeppel, 31, told her fellow graduates.
The main commencement address speaker was Betty Horton of Tower Hill, a nursing academic who helped pave the way for Millikin’s nurse anesthesia program. She warned graduates they had no time to rest, either, and said continuous learning was the healthiest prescription for any life.
“Dream more, dream bigger dreams, believe in the importance of setting goals and achieve throughout your career,” she added.