CHARLESTON — Graduating Eastern Illinois University students heard from their own Saturday and were told to take a passionate approach and apply what they’ve learned to the rest of their lives.
Dave Closson, who received a master’s degree in technology and who works as an EIU police officer, spoke of how he balanced academics, his profession and more to complete his college education. On the way, he said, he found that relationships and a variety of learning helped him succeed.
“This isn’t always easy, but through those strong relationships and valued integrated learning experiences, new ideas and opportunities will arise,” he said.
Closson addressed graduates during one of two commencement ceremonies at EIU Saturday. He and Brittany Zaring, a master’s degree recipient who spoke at the other ceremony, were the winners in a first-ever essay contest used to select the student speakers for the commencement exercises.
The contest winners spoke during the ceremonies in the slots given previously to the university’s student body president and faculty senate president. The contest’s theme was “My Academic Turning Point” and the title of Closson’s essay was “From College Student to College Cop.”
Reading the essay during Saturday’s ceremony, he said he was grateful for the support members of the EIU community gave him while he was a student. He said that not only covered when he was working full time as a police officer but also when he was deployed to Iraq while a member of the Illinois National Guard.
During his time in graduate school, Closson said, he found his “diverse life
experiences” were welcomed as well as a benefit. He also applies what he’s learned to his work in law enforcement, and EIU “continues to be a special place for me,” he also said.
“I am now living my passion every day,” Closson said. “I strive to be one of the many ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things.”
Meanwhile, Saturday’s speakers also included a husband and wife who both graduated from EIU and later established the Louis V. Hencken Housing Services Scholarship. Timothy L. Burke spoke during the morning ceremony and Vickie Krupp Burke addressed the afternoon event.
During his remarks, Timothy Burke told the graduating students it was really only now that “you’re about to find out what a great place EIU is.” Challenges and the unknown can turn into opportunities and rewards, he said.
Burke told the tales of two giants of their respective industries, Apple founder Steve Jobs and entertainment legend Walt Disney, noting that Jobs had to buy back his own company to save it from bankruptcy and that Disney was fired from a job at a newspaper for having “no good ideas.”
What the students now have that Jobs and Disney did not are college degrees, Burke continued. Though he had “little clue of what I wanted to do” after he graduated from EIU, he said, he embraced challenges and worked for major accounting and finance firms and on international projects.
“We just have to embrace the unknowns,” he said.
About 600 students were scheduled to receive degrees during the Saturday’s two ceremonies, which took place in EIU’s Lantz Arena.
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