From the moment graduates of National Louis University’s College of Professional Studies and Advancement streamed into the Arie Crown Theater at Chicago’s McCormick Place on June 24, 2017, they created an air of exuberance for the 131st Commencement. Students smiled broadly as they took their seats, and the cheering only got louder as the ceremony went on.
Guest speaker Richard “Rick” Davidson, an NLU alum, president of the Everest Group, LLC and former president and CEO of Century 21 Real Estate, focused the graduates’ attention on decisions they make each day that show their true characters.
“Nothing is more important than your integrity,” he said.
He said his parents provided a moral compass for him and his brothers by stressing the need to do what is right. They also modeled it by their actions.
“Their mantra was, ‘never do anything in your personal or professional life that you would not be able to stand before a camera on the six o’clock news and tell what you did,” he said.
NLU President Nivine Megahed, Ph.D., then introduced Richard Shaw, winner of the College of Professional Studies and Advancement’s Distinguished Teaching Award, which is selected by students.
As the ceremony moved along, Ezekiel Aranez, the student speaker, told his fellow graduates he grew up in Seattle thinking he too, as a child of parents from the Philippines, would pursue the American dream. He was 19 years old in 2001, and after 9/11, he felt called to sign up for Operation Desert Storm. He was stationed in Ramadi, Iraq, and had his heart broken when a fellow soldier was killed by an explosive device.
“I was shattered. I was discouraged. I had no hope for the future,” he said. That kind of despair is the reason for the high rate of suicides among veterans, he said.
“My degree is dedicated to families who have lost their loved ones,” he said. “It grounds me to fight for people who are broken.”
Aranez earned his Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration degree, and was one of 15 student veterans to graduate from NLU in 2017. Veterans Affairs Director Ramon Prieto asked them all to stand up to be honored, and they received loud applause.
Students received doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in fields ranging from business to psychology, counseling, criminal justice, health services administration, public policy and communications.
Congratulations to all!