Originally Posted Online: May 13, 2013, 12:19 am
Last Updated: May 13, 2013, 12:29 am

WIU grads told to be proud, remember their school

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By Nicole Lauer, nicolellauer@gmail.com

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Photo: Gary Krambeck
Kiely Suhr gives a passing high-five to a fellow student after receiving her Master of Science in education from Western Illinois University at commencement at the i wireless Center on Sunday, May 12, 2013.
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Sunday was Mother's Day, but some proud mothers shared the day with about 230 graduates of Western Illinois University. The newest Leatherneck alumni were recognized at a ceremony at the i wireless Center honoring graduate and undergraduate students of the Quad Cities Riverfront Campus.

Those attending Sunday heard a call from President Jack Thomas for graduates to keep WIU close to their hearts.

"Your hearts should swell with purple pride as you think about your experiences at WIU," Mr. Thomas said.

Mr. Thomas said that pride should endure for many years past the graduates' days of pounding the campus pavement. He said their loyalty to the university should compel them to take several different actions: stay updated on the going-ons of their alma mater, to tell others about good ol' WIU, to donate and to "whole heartedly" wear a wardrobe of purple and gold.

"Why wear the orange and blue, the black and gold or red and white ... when our school colors are purple and gold?" Mr. Thomas said. "When your six-pack abs turn into a keg and you can't fit into your old WIU shirt, please come back to purchase more apparel ..."

But Mr. Thomas told the graduates their WIU pride should run deeper than what hangs in their closets.

He quoted musician Sting's song, "If you love somebody, set them free." Echoing the lyrics, he told graduates, if they need somebody, call my name. He said, if they want someone, they can do the same.

"We want you to keep WIU's name near and dear to your heart," Mr. Thomas said. "As Sting says, lock Western in your heart and just throw away the key."

Mr. Thomas said no matter what paths graduates take from here, they should let their love for WIU shine so others can see their good works.

"May your legacy be one that represents the university extremely well," he said.

Joseph Rives, WIU's vice president for Quad Cities and planning, lauded WIU-QC graduates for challenging the professors and others of the university inside and outside of the classroom. He also praised them for increasing the number of student organizations at the QC campus from 12 to 23.

Like Mr. Thomas, Mr. Rives encouraged graduates to remain lifelong proud beacons for WIU.

"Data says 92 percent of students who graduate form WIU-QC stay in the Quad-Cities," Mr. Rives said. "Make us proud. ... You are a permanent trustee of WIU."

Among those leaving the ceremony as proud graduates was Leslie Scheck, a Yorkville, native who now lives in the Quad-Cities. Surrounded by her peers from the school counseling program, she shouted out, "We're masters!" and got a resounding, "Whoo!" in response."

Ms. Scheck said she grew close with the 30 or so members of the program who graduated with her Sunday. She said the past three years leading up to this day have been exciting and long.

Angela Reaves, who earned her Master of Arts in English on Sunday, was surrounded by family for photos after the ceremony. Her son, Jayden, younger than 2, enjoyed playing with her tassel during the photo op and ended up pulling it off Mom's head.

Ms. Reaves, a Davenport resident who works full-time as an English teacher in Muscatine, said it was difficult completing her degree and raising her family. She said she credited her success to good support and taking it one class at a time.

The list of graduates was not available from WIU-QC at press time. It will be published at a later date.