We asked Redbirds to share some of their favorite memories and what they remember of their time at Illinois State University. With so many stories, the Redbirds Remember series showcases what Redbirds remember most about their alma mater. Whether you graduated five years ago or 50 years ago, ISU was, at one point, your home away from home. The ISU community would not be the same without the Redbirds who have come through and made their mark at the University.

Commencement, an ISU tradition almost as old as the University itself, was established in 1860. The ceremonial awarding of degrees has grown since its first event at Old Main, but the ritual is still the same—every student’s name is read aloud at commencement to recognize their academic achievements at ISU, along with the legacies they leave behind. Today, there are on average 5,000 graduates each year, rounding out to over 220,000 Redbird alumni living and working around the world. The celebration of each individual student is the ceremony’s primary purpose; many Redbirds remember and cherish the day their name was called, and they were given the opportunity to cross the stage.  

“I was so proud of myself and excited because I was achieving my dreams of becoming a teacher,” said Susan Jachymiak ’18. “I was also the first person in my family to graduate with a college degree.”

Other Redbirds reiterated their excitement of being the first of their families to obtain a degree—a huge accomplishment for Redbirds and their families to celebrate.

“I was the first person on my dad’s side to graduate from college,” said Richard Allard ’74. “That made it a really special day.”

“I made history,” said Dr. Cynthia Thompson, Ph.D. ’14. “I was the first in my family to earn a doctorate degree. I’m thankful to Dr. Thomas Crumpler for believing in me when I joined the program.”

Many Redbirds said bittersweet goodbyes to professors but were thankful for the opportunities to learn from them during their time at ISU.

“I felt on top of the world at commencement,” said Rachel Taylor ’18. “Finally, my four years of hard work were complete, and it was so special to shake my professors’ hands after walking across the stage.”

“I felt great at graduation and one of my favorite parts was having my picture taken with many of my professors,” said Kathy Perry ’72.

Other Redbirds remembered not only how proud they were, but how proud their parents and families were of them.

“I graduated twice in one year,” said Krissie Harris ’92, M.S. ’93. “I felt pride and honor when I saw my parents so happy with my accomplishments.”

“Commencement was outstanding because my entire family attended,” said Booker Suggs ’78. “My parents were so proud of me, which gave me a type of glow for the entire weekend.”

As commencement came and went, so did the memories from Redbirds’ time at ISU. A bittersweet moment for many, it was difficult to say goodbye to their home away from home.

“It was so wonderful, and I felt so accomplished,” said Robin Erickson ’81. “It was great to see my family in the stands and hear them cheering for me. At the same time though, I was sad to know that my college days had ended.”

“Commencement was wonderful, but the issue was locating and saying goodbye to my friends,” said John Fullerton ’76. “I’m sending hugs to the Redbirds who graduated in May of 1976!”

“I was proud of myself, but knowing I was leaving behind some of the best times in my life made me somewhat sad,” said Miranda Puskar ’16.

Even though your time at ISU ended and you walked across the commencement stage, you will always be a Redbird and always have a home in Normal. We are #RedbirdProud of the Redbirds who have come and gone, leaving their legacies behind. To the current Redbirds on their way to commencement: Don’t forget to cherish every moment of your time at ISU because it flies by!