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Good morning and welcome to Commencement at the oldest public university in the State of Illinois.

I'd like to be among the first to congratulate you for reaching this important milestone. I also want to thank you for choosing this University as your collegiate home. There is no question that this experience has changed you in fundamental ways. But you've also been part of significant changes at Illinois State, and in many ways, you've helped make us better. This University's national prominence has risen and you've played no small part in the change in our institutional profile. Our admissions standards, retention, and graduation rates have all reached historic highs because of you. We've been ranked as a top 100 public university for seven consecutive years. Three of our academic programs are ranked in the top 20 nationally, and just last week, one of our Master's programs was ranked fifth in the nation.

In national and international competitions, Illinois State students have also excelled. Earlier this spring, a team of students from our School of Information Technology program advanced to the world finals of a Collegiate Computer Programming Competition and competed in Egypt. A student in actuarial science recently won an award that is earned by only a handful of graduating actuarial students from around the world and in doing so, became the fifth Illinois State student in the last sex years to receive the award, a record that has been matched by just one other university in the world.

There is no doubt in my mind that you have the skills that will be needed to achieve not only professional success, but the knowledge our country needs to maintain its leadership role in a global economy. You are graduating into a new and challenging era, and you're graduating from a first-rate university.

We recently recognized one of our graduates for his role in revitalizing the Chicago Blackhawks. Jay Blunk, class of 1986, is currently a senior vice president for the Chicago Blackhawks. Those of you from the Chicago area know the story well. Jay helped turn around the franchise and the Blackhawks became one of professional sports' biggest success stories. Forbes described it as "arguably the most remarkable turnaround in the history of sports in the United States."

The chairman of our board of trustees, Mike McCuskey, class of 1970, was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton and serves as the Chief Judge of the Central District of Illinois.

Scott Elliott, class of 1985 with a degree in Economics and Sociology is senior vice president for Wellington Management Company, an investment firm with over $634 billion in client assets.

Just last week, Steve Graham, hosted a group of Illinois State alumni who work for Caterpillar, the world's leading manufacturer of construction equipment. Steve serves as Caterpillar's director of Strategic Investments.

Because the class of 2011 includes some of the most academically talented students we have ever enrolled, our expectations for you are even greater. As the institution's reputation and national prominence have risen, each incoming freshman class for the past 15 years has set a new record for academic achievement.

I know that many of you are anxious about the job market. Prior to the current economic crisis, the Labor Department predicted that by 2013, there would be 3 million more jobs in the U.S. that require a bachelor's degree. While the pace of job growth has certainly changed, the demographic shift underway could have a dramatic impact on future employment opportunities. Beginning this year and continuing for the next 19 years, 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 every single day in the U.S. Since Baby Boomers make up a third of the labor force and occupy many of the positions that require advanced training, the impact on certain sectors of the labor market could be severe. The more immediate concern, of course, is today's labor market and it's encouraging to see that employers plan to hire 19% more college graduates this year than they did in 2010.

Your Illinois State education has given you the tools to grapple with the challenges of this new millennium and to assume a leadership role in both your profession and in civic life.

Whether you've been trained as an actor, educator, nurse, or accountant, you also have the skills that will allow you to embrace scientific and technological change. As an Illinois State graduate, I know you can be counted on to contribute to America's strength and vitality. Congratulations!

 

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