Elmhurst University celebrates 152nd Commencement; Trustee Emeritus Weigand ‘64 accepts honorary doctorate

Under perfectly sunny skies and balmy temperatures, Elmhurst University held its 152nd Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 20, for the Class of 2023.

Nearly 950 undergraduate and graduate students took part in three ceremonies held throughout the day, out of about 1,100 Elmhurst students who earned degrees.

“What you have achieved is a bright illumination of our values, which promote a culture of engagement, connectedness and belonging,” Elmhurst University President Troy D. VanAken said as he congratulated the graduates. “Your contributions to the life of our campus—as individual students and as the Class of 2023—will become a vital part of our University story.”

At the morning ceremony for graduate students, master’s degrees were awarded in the fields of business, education, health care and technology. The students were commended for earning their degrees by successfully juggling academic workloads with full-time careers, family and other major commitments.

“As you move forward with this degree, I ask all of you to trust yourself, your beliefs and your values,” said commencement speaker Kelly Cunningham, associate professor in the School of Business and former director of the MBA program. “Be confident, have a vision, and you will be amazed by the satisfaction and joy you will get from your accomplishments.”

At the two afternoon ceremonies for the University’s undergraduate students, honorary degrees were awarded to Elmhurst University Trustee Emeritus and alumnus Russ Weigand ’64; and to the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, ninth general minister and president of the United Church of Christ.

After accepting his Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Weigand spoke about the importance of giving back and making an impact in the lives of others. Noting that he made his first philanthropic gift right after his own graduation, Weigand described the close relationship he has had with his alma mater ever since, becoming particularly interested in supporting ways to prepare students for careers and life after graduation. In 2016, he and his wife, Joyce Slone Weigand, pledged $2.25 million to support what is now the Weigand Center for Professional Excellence.

“We decided that this would be my legacy,” Weigand said. “I was, as many of you are, a first-generation college student, and I wanted to make sure that unknown opportunities would be made available for students, as they were for me.”

Dorhauer, who received the Honorary Doctorate of Divinity, drew inspiration from Emily Dickinson’s poem “I had no time to Hate” in his address to the graduates.

“We have grown far too comfortable hating one another,” Dorhauer said, “and families, communities and democracy are threatened because of it. In her poem, Dickinson chooses love over hate, realizing that once she commits to her first act of hatred she will have set a course in life from which she will not return. … But then the same is true of love—you cannot finish all that love requires. So you must choose.

“As you begin to shape a life beyond these walls, know that there will be calls and invitations for you to hate, and to commit fully to what hatred wants of you. … My plea to you as graduates is to heed Emily. Choose love. The world can survive one pathway; it will not survive the other.”

Dorhauer concluded his remarks thusly:

“Imagine a world in which the Class of 2023 here at Elmhurst University commits every single day to their little toil of love. Alone, we can do that and change a life. Together, we can change the world.”