December 14, 2015 at 11:30am

Millikin graduates take the next step at Winter Commencement

Millikin Commencement

Millikin University honored over 140 graduates during its 2015 Winter Commencement ceremony on Dec. 13 in Kirkland Fine Arts Center. Graduates from Millikin's traditional undergraduate program, evening degree completion program (PACE), and Master of Science in Nursing program walked across the stage to receive their degrees.

The ceremony featured remarks from student speakers Xin "Water" Zhao and John R. Blakeman. Both graduates set the tone for the ceremony by speaking on the subjects of difference and change.

Xin "Water" Zhao"We all worked very hard to graduate from Millikin University," Zhao said. "The choices you make in the future will have a profound effect on our mother earth."

Originally from Zhuhai, China, Zhao resides near Oreana, Ill. Water majored in studio art during her time at Millikin and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree on Dec. 13. The title of her address was "JFK Revisited; Ask not what the Mother Earth can do for you, ask what you can do for the Mother Earth."

Zhao currently runs a pottery studio in Oreana and teaches Mandarin in the Decatur Public School system. Xin moved to the United States in 2008 and received her associate degree in art from Richland Community College in 2013.

"I intend to make a difference," Zhao said. "We live in a time of environmental evolution and together we will evolve."  

John Blakeman, from Taylorville, Ill., graduated with a Master of Science in Nursing degree, Nurse Educator track. Blakeman is a clinical nurse on a cardiovascular unit at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Ill. The title of Blakeman's address was "Change."

"A critical component to change is having an open mind," Blakeman said. "When it comes to change, how unified can we be? We must welcome change and embrace it."

John R. BlakemanBlakeman earned his Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Millikin University, graduating summa cum laude. During his undergraduate tenure at Millikin, Blakeman received several awards including the Dr. J. Roger Miller Leadership Award and the Scovill Prize.

A background in cardiovascular nursing, including cardiothoracic surgery step-down, Blakeman has been published in several journals, including "Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing," the "Journal of Nursing Education," and the "Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services."

"Millikin graduates are in a position to make change and to do things to improve our country and improve the community we live in," Blakeman said.

Keynote speaker Dr. Edward C. Elliott, M.D., delivered his address titled "Three Glasses of Inspiration." Dr. Elliott is a board certified radiation oncologist with Cancer Care Specialists of Central Illinois. Dr. Elliott has spent over 25 years in Decatur and central Illinois helping make Cancer Care Specialists of Central Illinois a regionally and nationally recognized center of excellence in providing exceptional care for cancer patients.

"The path from the present to the future is never a straight one," Dr. Elliott said. "It's the people in your life that matter the most. You have to bloom where you're planted."

Dr. Elliott received his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and his M.D. degree from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington, Ky., in 1979. In 1986, Dr. Elliott chose to pursue his interest in clinical oncology. He completed his residency in radiation oncology at the University of Kentucky in 1989, and subsequently was in practice in Decatur, Ill. Dr. Elliott also served as president of the Central Illinois Radiological Society and the Macon County Medical Society.

Click the following links to view coverage of Millikin's Winter Commencement from the Herald & Review and WSOY-AM.