[May 12, 2014]LINCOLN -
Lincoln College President John Blackburn welcomed the 2014
graduating class in the Lincoln Center on Saturday for the 147th
consecutive commencement at the college. The packed auditorium was
filled with family and friends of the 163 graduates.
Student speaker Kristin Davis and honorary degree recipient Tom
Zurkhammer would address the crowd with their valued LC and other
life-success experiences this day.
After his welcoming remarks, Blackburn introduced Davis. Ms. Davis
related to the audience her experiences at Lincoln College,
especially the anxiety she felt upon coming to the campus as a
freshman and meeting her roommate for the first time. They hit it
off immediately, and have become best friends. Her experience being
on the volleyball team created a circle of friends that will remain
with her as she moves on from Lincoln College. She saved her highest
praise for the academic atmosphere of the college, and the expertise
and caring nature of her professors.
Before taking the podium as commencement speaker, Mr. Zurkhammer was
presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He was
sponsored for the degree by LC trustee, Robert Rowe Jr., with
President Blackburn conferring the degree.
A product of Lincoln Community High School, Zurkhammer graduated
from LC in 1963, and after receiving a bachelor’s degree at McMurray
returned to Lincoln College and spent his working career at the
Tom Zurkhammer began his commencement address by saying that there
can be no greater honor for him than to be recognized for his life’s
work at Lincoln College. He said he was surprised and flattered by
his selection and went on to express his love for Lincoln College,
the students, and for his family.
Zurkhammer related two incidents in his life that he considered to
be defining moments, moments that would shape the rest of his life.
In relating these incidents to the new grads he said that we all
have moments that occur every day, and they would need to recognize
those that were their defining moments and seize them.
Tom Zurkhammer told of meeting as an eighth grader, the president of
the University of Illinois, David Henry. Henry’s commencement speech
to Zurkhammer’s eighth grade class emphasized that each student was
in charge of their future, that they could make it anyway they
wanted. To this day, Zurkhammer remembers that call from Henry to
The second defining moment occured when Zurkhammer was attending
Lincoln High School and playing basketball. He met Lincoln College
basketball coach Norm Kaye. When Kaye challenged Zurkhammer to
rebound a basketball, Tom did as instructed but with no special
effort. When Kaye made clear that he was not impressed with
Zurkhammer’s effort, he again challenged Zurkhammer to rebound the
basketball. This time Zurkhammer grabbed the rebound and blocked
Kaye with an aggressive move. Zurkhammer told the LC graduates that
he had been given a second chance to use a defining moment, a moment
that shaped his life. Kaye was impressed with Zurkhammer’s athletic
skill and recruited him to play basketball at LC, where he excelled.
That moment in the high school gym, as well as an 8th
grade commencement message, went on to define Zurkhammer’s life.
Zurkhammer emphasized that he had been given a second chance in
the high school gym. “I believe in second chances, but it is not
always the case that they are given,” he said. “You must be
prepared in life to respond to those defining moments the first
time. After all, a second chance puts the decision in someone
else’s hand, while a first chance to seize what you want in life
is up to you.” He stressed to the grads that they must be ready
for life’s challenges. With that he reached beneath the lectern
and grabbed a small basketball then threw it into the seated
grads, causing a mad scrambled to grab it. “You must be ready to
grab that basketball on the first try. You must know what you
want in school, careers, civic duty. There are endless choices.
You must move forward. Don’t put fate in someone else’s hands,”
Zurkhammer continued his speech using the basketball metaphor by
telling the grads that they must put in the effort and energy to
seize a defining moment in their lives, just as he seized that
basketball on a high school court long ago. “When the ball goes up,
will you be ready to grab it,” he challenged.
Zurkhammer finished his speech by telling the students to thank the
exceptional faculty at Lincoln College for their continued success
in life, and to always keep in touch as they move into new areas of
their lives. With that he pulled another small basketball out and
threw it into the waiting hands of the new graduates.
With that, the new graduates marched across the stage to receive
their diplomas from President Blackburn; and then strolled out into
the sunshine and on to the next moments of their lives.
[By CURT FOX]
For more details on Zurkhammer and the Lincoln
College graduation read: