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Northwestern College conducts 116th Commencement Ceremony

A first-ever “CarMencement” Drive-Thru Ceremony honoring 2020 & 2021 Graduates

Northwestern College held its 116th Commencement Ceremony on June 12 honoring both its 2020 and 2021 graduates. 

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Illinois Governor’s Executive Orders prohibiting large gatherings of people, this year’s ceremony was held locally at the College’s Oak Lawn Campus and was featured as a “Drive-Thru CarMencement Ceremony.”

Sadly, the 2020 Ceremony had to be cancelled last year – for the first time in Northwestern College’s (NC) then 118-year history – due to COVID-19. Consequently, the 2021 ceremony was designed to honor the academic achievements of both the Class of 2020 and 2021.

Graduates drove into Northwestern College’s Oak Lawn Campus parking lot with their families and friends where they were guided through expansive arches of red, white and black balloons. As they reached the front of the building graduates exited the vehicles and were guided towards a podium at the south end of the front entrance. Their name, academic achievement and program were announced, and they processed through another large balloon arch towards the north end of the entrance; there they were presented with their degree by Northwestern College President Lawrence Schumacher.

Simultaneously, their family and friends drove alongside them at the front entrance with a “front row seat”, cheering them on as they accepted their diplomas. Photos were taken of the conferral by President Schumacher, and then the graduates proceeded beyond the entrance where backdrops for photos were set up. There, the families and friends were able to exit their vehicles and join the graduate in photos.

Upon conclusion, graduates returned to their cars and exited under the final expansive arch of balloons to continue their celebrations off-campus.

A total of 425 Northwestern College graduates of the 2020 and 2021 Classes were awarded certificates and degrees upon completing their studies at the College’s Oak Lawn Campus and online venue. This included 229 graduates of the Class of 2020 and 196 graduates of the Class of 2021.

The vast majority of graduates stemmed from the College’s School of Health Sciences (including Health Information Technology, Coding, Dental Assisting, Medical Assisting and Radiologic Technology programs) as well as the Violet L Schumacher School of Nursing. There were 139 School of Health Sciences graduates in the Class of 2020 and 105 in the Class of 2021. The School of Nursing yielded a total of 165 graduates (Class of 2020, 76; Class of 2021, 89) who earned their Associates of Applied Science degrees.

The final 16 graduates were from its School of Commerce & Technology, with 14 from the Class of 2020 and 2 from the Class of 2021. The College ceased enrolling new students in its School of Commerce & Technology a few years ago.

In his written Commencement Program Message to the Classes of 2020 and 2021, President Schumacher acknowledged the sacrifices made by so many to achieve their educational goals that day, further recognizing how their challenges were compounded exponentially by a worldwide pandemic. “During this historic and unprecedented time, you persevered, navigating uncharted waters of a world shut down by a deadly but invisible foe, all while staying on course to complete your higher education aspirations.”

This year two students were selected to serve as Student Speakers to represent the graduates, and like everything else, their speeches were presented differently than in any previous ceremony. Rather than being presented live during the ceremony, they were taped and made available on Northwestern College’s FaceBook page and YouTube channel.

The first speaker was Lina Bayaa. A mother of two, she previously completed her Coding Specialist Certificate and Associate in Applied Science Degree (AAS) in Health Information Technology, with High Honors. On June 12 she was presented with her Bachelor of Science Degree (BS) in Health Information Management, Cum Laude.

The second Student Speaker was Cory Dean, a married father of 3 who had worked 14 years as a Medical Assistant at South Suburban Hospital. In 2020 he earned his Associate in Applied Science Degree in Radiologic Technology. Cory is now a Radiographer at Ann & Robert Lurie’s Children’s Hospital and a CT Tech at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.