MOLINE -- Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride told Augustana graduates on Sunday he knew some colleges were hearing commencement speeches from Oprah or Bill Cosby. But that just wasn't in the cards for the college's 153rd commencement.
"I'm Clare's dad. I'm not a comedian, not a scholar," Justice Kilbride said. "But I'm here. They say 50 percent of success is showing up. So I need you to help me with the other 50 percent."
Crowds spilled into the upper bowl at the iWireless Center in Moline on Sunday to celebrate the Class of 2013, which happened to include Justice Kilbride's daughter, Clare.
Justice Kilbride said he accepted the invitation to serve as commencement speaker with trepidation and first wanted to gain the approval of his family. In addition to seeking his daughter's OK, he also checked in with his wife, who has taught mathematics at the college since the '80s. Furthering his Augustana connections, Justice Kilbride's daughter, Colleen, graduated in 2009.
"President (Steven) Bahls is a smart guy," Justice Kilbride said. "He already got their permission."
Despite a high-profile position on the state's highest court, Justice Kilbride said talking to Sunday's crowd was intimidating because he is lucky to see 30 people in his courtroom. Justice Kilbride said unlike other commencement speakers who wax poetic about how graduates can change the world, he said he wanted to dispense some straight-forward advice.
"In doubt, do right. You will gratify some and probably stun others," he said. "And to lower the bar, just don't make things worse."
Justice Kilbride said he knows jobs are at the forefront of the minds of many students and that fact probably is more true for the graduates' parents. On the bright side, he said the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in years and the rate is even lower for college graduates. He said there still is a high return on investment for college grads.
"Be persistent, don't give up," he said.
Justice Kilbride told the Class of 2013 they came of age in remarkable and turbulent times. He said it is hard to know exactly what lies on the path ahead. When he was in their shoes 35 years ago, he didn't want to be on the court but instead wanted to be a guard for the Boston Celtics.
"The dots in our lives don't connect looking forward, they connect when you look back," he said.
No matter the path, he urged graduates to, "Show up, stand up and be counted."
Justice Kilbride said this country values constitutional rights, but so often declines to participate. He said hopefully, some day the first woman governor of Illinois or the first female president of the United States will hail from Augustana.
Sunday's graduates also heard remarks from president Bahls, who told graduates to pursue justice, love mercy and walk humbly. On a smaller scale, he also urged them to return for homecoming festivities in the fall to see completed construction projects, such as those at the football field and the new Center for Student Life, and to watch him flip pancakes.
Remarks from the graduating class came from Moselle Singh, who said prior to the ceremony she asked her classmates to share what moments brought them the most happiness. She said the answers she received hinged on moments where happiness was shared with others. She said for some, that meant being surrounded by new friends in Cambodia, or dancing all night in The District of Rock Island or jumping into the slough on campus.
She told her classmates to remember they are happiest when that happiness is shared.
Graduate Matthew Mordini presented the gift of more than $1,600 on behalf of his classmates. Mr. Mordini said the funds will be matched by president Bahls and his wife and will go toward the Augustana Fund, which funds scholarships for current Augustana students.
Honorary degrees were presented to Justice Kilbride; Don Wooten, the founder and former general manager of Augustana Public Radio; and Kim Brunner, chairman of Augustana's Board of Trustees.
Also recognized on Sunday were members of honor reunion classes from the years 1958, 1953, 1948, 1943 and 1938.
Just after the ceremony, the happy graduates were released to the courtyard where Kathy Golas, of Mokena, embraced classmate Ashely Brown, of Lavergne, Tenn., and said, "We did it!"
The pair both had multiple majors, but encountered each other through their Asian studies classes. They said graduation day had been a long time coming and a lot of tears and sweat made it possible.
"It was daunting, but we made it," Ms. Brown said.
Valerie Back, of Palatine, Ill., also was embraced by family after the ceremony, and said her next move is to hopefully find a teaching job back home.
"It went by so fast," she said. "It's done within the blink of an eye."
Augustana College Graduates
Bettendorf -- Hannah Barney, Allie Bierhaus, Courtney Linn, Stephanie Morris, Anna Tunnicliff, Alex Wilson. Coal Valley -- Samantha Bazely, Kayla Descamps, Elaine Guthrie. Davenport -- Anthony Ash, Grace Drenth, Alannah Golden, Thomas Harris, Ryan Kopatich, Manisha Kumar, Kelsey Lovaas, Hannah Maloney, Jared McIntosh, Jacob O'Rourke, Richard Rector, Peter Wiese. East Moline -- Brandy Blakeney, Mary Kandis, Michael Kautz, Leart Neziroski. Eldridge -- Kaleigh Wall. Erie -- Joe Bright, Ashley Heppner. Geneseo -- Meghan Wethington. Hampton -- Jessica Larrison. Joy -- Marcela Crawford. Kewanee -- John Draminski. LeClaire -- Moselle Singh. Lynn Center -- Alyssa Anderson. Milan -- Kelsey Miller, John Peters, Astrid Tello-Rodriguez. Moline -- Christopher Boley, Austin Boyle, Jasmine Brooks, George Dexter, Zachary Dryoel, Jonathan Grchan, Kjerstin Hurty, Rachael Kellums, Mary Lambrecht, Ryan Lundeen, Lauren Mentado, Eric Palmer, Nicholas Petre, Abdur Razzaque, Jessica Roche, Jonathan Smith, Will Tolmie, Calvin Vo. Morrison -- Katelyn Sedig. New Boston -- Derek King. Orion -- Kayla Ferguson, Abby Fiedler, Jenna Nelson, Devin Pettifer. Port Byron -- Amber Anderson, Ryan Brummet, Douglas Peters. Prophetstown -- Sallie Hohenboken, Drew Wiersema. Reynolds -- Kayle Boggs. Rock Island -- Stormy Almanza, Courtney Anderson, Saleta Anderson, Jennifer Baker, Arielle Campos, Richard Coppula, Angela Cummins, Nicholas Cummins, Erin Gehn, Asta Gustafson, Clare Kilbride, Zachary Kozelichki, Kate Lang, Anna Letendre, Floyd Mays, Andrew Palm, Lauren Ploen, David Richard, Amie Rogers, Jennifer Schroder, Jeffery Siirila, Michael Tovar. Silvis -- Stacey Bollinger, Chelsea Vickerman. Taylor Ridge -- Rebecca Anderson, Jessica Scheckel.
Today is Tuesday, Sept 2, the 245th day of 2014. There are 120 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: It is estimated that 300,000 people attended the recent Democratic convention in Chicago when Gen. George B. McClellan of New Jersey was nominated as a candidate for president of the United States. 1889 — 125 years ago: Alderman Frank Ill, Winslow Howard and Captain J.M. Montgomery returned from Milwaukee, where they attended the national Grand Army of the Republic encampment. 1914 — 100 years ago: Three members of the Rock Island YMCA accepted positions as physical directors of other associations. Albert Cook went to Kewanee, C.D. Curtis to Canton and Willis Woods to Leavenworth, Kan. 1939 — 75 years ago: Former President Herbert Hoover appealed for national support of President F.D. Roosevelt and Congress in every effort to keep the United States out of war. 1964 — 50 years ago: The Rock Island Junior chamber pf Commerce has received answers to about 65 % of the 600 questionnaires mailed out recently in a "Community Attitude Survey" to analyze sentiments of citizens towards their city's various recreational, educational, and civic service programs. 1989 — 25 years ago: The two thunderstorms passing through the Quad Cities last night and early today left some area residents reaching for their flashlights.