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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Knox College Commencement 2023

Students sit during the 2023 Commencement

Knox College’s 178th Commencement ceremony honored the class of 2023 on June 4, 2023. On a warm, late-spring morning, family and friends gathered to the sounds of the Cherry St. Combo on the South Lawn of Old Main to congratulate and celebrate the achievements of the 266 graduating students.

Chair of the Knox College Board of Trustees Tony Etz '83 opened the ceremony, welcoming all in attendance. He highlighted the achievements of Knox Athletics teams, acknowledging the Knox athletes who achieved All-American honors in track and field, as well as the Women’s Basketball Team for their appearance in the NCAA tournament. Etz emphasized that even as these achievements were part of their own stories, every graduating student also had an impact on the larger community during their time at Knox. “You made your mark. Every single one of you changed Knox College," Etz said.

Knox College President C. Andrew McGadney took the stage following a spirited performance of “Unclouded Day” by the Knox College Choir. McGadney opened with a dedication to Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Laura Lane, whose 40-year career at the College comes to a close following Commencement. 

McGadney continued, pointing out the dedication and resilience of the class, noting their ability to reach the end of their college careers despite the many challenges they faced along the way. He praised the graduates’ commitment to their community and willingness to use their voices for change. 

“Because of all of you, I have hope,” McGadney said. “Because of all of you, I believe our community will be a better place in the years ahead."

Following McGadney’s address, honorary degree recipients were recognized for their achievements. 

Joseph B. Glossberg was recognized for his successful career in wealth advising and counseling, as well as 15 years of service as a Knox trustee. He received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his contributions to the well-being of others. 

Michelle Kuo was recognized for advocating for social movements in racial and economic justice, incarceration and detention, restorative justice, and prison abolition. She received a Doctor of Laws degree for her dedication to social justice movements. 

Finally, Commencement speaker Brooke M. Wiseman was honored for her tenure as chief executive officer of Blessings in a Backpack, guiding the organization to become the only national organization solely dedicated to closing the weekend hunger gap for food-insecure students. She received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree for her commitment to improving young people's lives throughout the nation. 

Wiseman took to the stage following her degree reception, stating she was grateful for the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the graduating class. Wiseman detailed the journey of her nonprofit career, from her graduation from Ball State University to her first job as a professional Girl Scout. “I took a lot of ribbing for that back then. 'Is that a real job? Are you selling cookies for a living?' Sort of, actually,” Wiseman said. 

She explained how her desire to help others led to continued service opportunities in her community, giving her a sense of belonging. After years of challenging work helping others, Wiseman stepped into the leadership role at Blessings in a Backpack. 

Wiseman urged the class of 2023 to keep volunteer work a part of their lives after leaving Knox. She pointed out the local work Galesburg’s Blessings in a Backpack chapter has completed and praised the Knox students who continue to volunteer. Wiseman also acknowledged that Knox students have completed over 20,000 hours of community service in the last six years and emphasized the importance of keeping this element of the Knox education alive as they enter their careers. 

“Choose your cause. Take your skills and passion out into the community. We all have a lot of work to do together. They are waiting for you now,” Wiseman said. 

Smith V. Brand Distinguished Professor of Theatre and Chair of Arts Administration Elizabeth Carlin Metz presented the Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence, announcing Laura Lane as the 2023 recipient. The announcement was met with robust applause, as everyone in attendance celebrated Lane’s career achievements. 

“We’ll never know how many students remained at Knox and achieved their college goals because of Laura,” Metz said. 

Senior Class Speaker Alexandra Marcoullier '23 opened her speech by thanking her mom and friends who helped her get to this moment. She urged her fellow classmates not to downsize the achievements they are celebrating, stressing the importance and scope of graduating from college. She remarked how the Knox experience focuses on students engaging in the human-powered experience, but never knowing what that truly meant until her four years were complete. She said that, for her, the human-powered experience was shaped by everyone she met along the way. “For four years, we were a community that powered each other,” she said. 

Finally, the graduates approached the stage and Provost and Dean of the College Michael Schneider took to the podium to announce the names of those receiving their degrees. Students formed a line of black gowns and purple and gold cords as they waited for their turn to walk across the sunny stage and complete their Knox journey. 

In closing, senior class officers Vanessa Christine Jackson '23, Josie Lopez '23, and Class of 2023 President Katherine Zhang made individual remarks. They looked back at the last four years and forward to the many opportunities ahead for their classmates. “Congratulations class of 2023, we’ve officially made it,” Zhang cheered. 

Director of Spiritual Life Dan Marlin completed the ceremony, asking the graduates to carry their values into the next step of their journey and let integrity be their guiding light.

The crowd stood for a final round of applause and watched the class of 2023 throw their graduation caps into the air as they waved goodbye to college life and moved forward into the next chapter of their lives. 

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Printed on Saturday, June 22, 2024