Millikin celebrates new graduates at the 2023 Spring Commencement

Degrees were given to 338 students during two ceremonies on May 21.


DECATUR, Ill. – When Gavin King took the stage at Millikin University’s 2023 Spring Commencement Ceremony on May 21, 2023, he couldn’t believe he was there. King, who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Acting, was one of two student speakers at this year’s commencement ceremonies. His speech was titled “Infinity and Beyond,” which addressed his long road to becoming a college graduate and what lies ahead for the graduating class of 2023. 

“We have all gathered here to celebrate our accomplishments, but what is next? For some of us, it might be to go on to get more degrees; for some of us, it will be to take a break and find out more about who we are and for some of us, we may not know yet,” Gavin said. “For whatever it may be, I encourage you to continue exploring life and everything it offers.”

Gavin King
Gavin King speaks at Millikin University's 2023 Spring Commencement. 

Gavin shared the challenges he experienced at his first college experience and the road that led to Millikin. He took a chance on a position working with children in an after-school program, which led him to begin choreographing high school theatre productions. 

“Had I not decided to take a chance on myself and do something out of my wheelhouse, like working with children, I would have missed all those opportunities. The beauty of reaching for infinity and beyond is that there's no right or wrong answer. It's only a continuous path of whatever you want to be,” Gavin said. “Allow yourself to continue to grow and evolve. When shooting for the stars, we can become fixated on whatever path that is. We can develop tunnel vision as we are trying to get to those stars and we can miss the birds, the clouds, the other stars, the planets and the people along the way.”

At the 2023 Spring Commencement, 338 Millikin University students received degrees. 

Millikin honored 338 graduates with two in-person Commencement Ceremonies at Kirkland Fine Arts Center. The first Commencement Ceremony recognized graduates from the College of Professional Studies and the College of Arts & Sciences. The second ceremony recognized graduates from the Tabor School of Business and the College of Fine Arts. 

“The first Commencement ceremony honoring the first four-year graduating class occurred in 1907.  I’m honored to continue in that tradition and to award 338 degrees today because this ceremony has such significance to our University,” Millikin President Jim Reynolds said. “It’s the culmination of many years of hard work for our students and families. It is the end of an academic generation and the going forth of educated individuals who will help create a better society for us all to live and work in.”

Before he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology Pre-Medicine, Jarius Ingram took the stage as the second student speaker during Sunday’s ceremonies. His topic was “Big and Blue,” and the member of the Men’s Basketball team discussed what connects the Class of 2023. 

“I don’t like the common graduation phrase ‘We made it’ because I feel like it denotes a final destination,” Jarius said. “Our Millikin memories will only be a foundation for our fruitful futures. We have so much inspirational change to make and so many places to see and people to impact.”

Jodi Benson
Jodi Benson (middle) gave the Commencement Address at Millikin's 2023 Spring Commencement. 

Film and Broadway star Jodi Benson ’93 gave the Commencement Address and concluded her speech with a singing performance of “Part of Your World,” a song Benson made famous in the Academy Award-winning Walt Disney animated feature film, “The Little Mermaid.”

Benson also accepted one of two Honorary Degrees given at Commencement. Benson received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree and Margaret Anne “Peggy” Goodheart Madden was honored posthumously with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, which was received by Peggy’s daughter Wendy Madden Burke. Peggy was a generous donor to Millikin, creating the Goodheart Event which provides Millikin students with access to outstanding entertainment at no charge. 

Revisit Millikin University’s 2023 Spring Commencement Celebration

Morning Ceremony

Afternoon Ceremony