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News

NIU holds first of three graduation ceremonies

By Kate Schott - kschott@daily-chronicle.com

After the graduates walked in to the traditional sounds of Pomp and Circumstance played by the orchestra, after the flags were presented and the National Anthem sung, there was silence Saturday morning in the Convocation Center at Northern Illinois University. It was a moment asked of the crowd by NIU administrators, to “honor those who are not with us here today.” Silence fell. And then the ceremony went on. Moving on, while never forgetting those who have been lost, has been the resolve of the students, faculty and administrators at NIU since February, when five students were killed at the hands of a former student. There was another moment during the ceremony Saturday morning - which was for graduates in the College of Liberal Arts - that symbolized the “never forgetting” aspect. The parents and brother of Gayle Dubowski accepted a posthumous degree on behalf of their daughter and sister, who was 20 when she died. The trio received hugs from NIU President John Peters as the audience rose to their feet and applauded. And there will be another moment at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, when the families of 20-year-old Catalina Garcia of Cicero and 32-year-old Julianna Gehant of Mendota will accept degrees on behalf of their loved ones during the commencement ceremony for the College of Education, College of Visual and Performing Arts and College of Health and Human Sciences. The families of the other two students who died - 19-year-old Ryanne Mace of Carpentersville and 20-year-old Daniel Parmenter of Westchester - have chosen to receive posthumous degrees at a later date. But officials worked hard to make this year's commencement ceremonies about the 3,500 students earning their diplomas. Those who spoke at the 9 a.m. ceremony encouraged students to use the experiences they have gained at NIU - both good and bad - to embrace a life of purpose. “My charge to you today, let the full force of your contributions emerge from experience and conscious advancement,” NIU Board of Trustee member John Butler said, which was heard via a video feed of the ceremony. “Continue to discover and shape your aspirations and be good to yourselves.” The students know what matters now, Peters said, and want their lives to have purpose. “We value kindness and strength of character,” he said, which was heard via a video feed of the ceremony. “We value our families and cherish our friends. “We could not control the circumstances that gave us this gift of perspective,” Peters continued. “But each of us can determine how to use it. “My wish for you, may your gift be one that guides you toward good decisions, compels you to embrace a life of purpose and reminds you to demonstrate compassion in all you do.”

For more on this story, pick up Sunday's Daily Chronicle or return to www.daily-chronicle.com

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