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Forester News

Congratulations to the latest grads: Class of 2019

There was no chance that the chilly weather would stop the Class of 2019 from celebrating its achievements at the College’s 141st annual Commencement ceremony at Ravinia Festival Park in Highland Park on Saturday, May 11.

The diverse group of 360 graduates came to Lake Forest College from 31 countries, pursued degrees in 33 different majors, and participated in the campus community through more than 70 student organizations.

President Stephen Schutt introduced the three impactful individuals who were presented with honorary degrees by saying, “those whom we honor today bring us honor by joining us for this important occasion.” This year’s honorary degree recipients were: Joseph Ferguson ’81, Inspector General of Chicago, who received the Doctor of Laws; Dorri McWhorter, CEO of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, who received the Doctor of Humane Letters; and this year’s speaker Bridget C. Coughlin, PhD, President and CEO of the Shedd Aquarium, who received the Doctor of Science.

During her Commencement address, Coughlin shared several anecdotes incorporating both personal and marine biological elements to relay a greater message to the graduates. Intertwined with hints of comedy—such as asking if taking a selfie with Boomer, the College’s mascot, was included with the privileges that come with conferring an honorary degree—Coughlin’s address spoke to the sentimentality of an individual’s college years and how those experiences shape life after college. “After you leave campus, it’s not what you learned… but rather with whom you have learned and how you have trained your mind in the habit of curious learning,” she said.

Her address “Learning in the White Space: Applications for the Blue Planet” also highlighted the achievements of the Class of 2019 and noted the increasing value of a college degree. In addition to the specific degree earned by each individual, Coughlin discussed what she calls the metaphorical HCL degree, or habitual curious learning degree, that comes with a liberal arts education. “This type of learning is the healthy habit of keeping an open mind,” she said. “You have gone through curiosity training over the last four years and it is because of this training that you will add real value to a blue planet and the race that calls it home.”

Following Coughlin’s address, Professor of Psychology Matthew Kelley received the Trustee Award for Teaching Excellence. “Over the past 17 years, he has made an outstanding impact on our campus as a dedicated teacher, collaborative researcher, and engaged campus citizen,” Schutt said. Kelley has helped 31 students at the College become published authors, and this year marked the publication of his 30th paper co-authored with students. Schutt also noted that a student said, “Professor Kelley made me love science, which I didn’t think any teacher could ever do.”

Dean of Students Andrea Conner then presented the 2019 Senior Class Speaker, Emily Staufer ’19. The biology major and environmental studies minor spoke about her time at the College through the lenses of her comfort zone and panic zone. She shared that in college and now, post-grad, “we all have to contend with the choice to move out of our comfort zone and into our learning zone,” which means letting yourself grow and flourish by collaborating with others.

Before degrees were conferred, Staufer imparted kind words upon her peers one last time: “I implore you to stay steady and avoid allowing fear to stop you from trying. And after time, when you feel as though you’ve been idle in the comfort zone for awhile, I hope you move forward and expand your walls and your horizons and continue to learn and grow in every way, big and small.”

—By Sangjun Hornewer ’20