Commencement address given by CEO Dimitrios Kriaras
[Bridgeville, IL] Northwestern College held its 115th Commencement Ceremony on June 7 at The Shannon Center of Saint Xavier University in Chicago. According to Lawrence Schumacher, Northwestern College’s President, the 240 students that participated were awarded certificates and degrees upon completing their studies at the College’s Bridgeview Campus and online venue. In total, just over 300 students graduated from Northwestern College throughout the four quarters of this academic year.
This was the first time that the annual commencement ceremony was conducted at The Shannon Center, located just a few miles from Northwestern College’s Bridgeview Campus.
The College’s largest group of graduates during the ceremony stemmed from its School of Health Sciences (including Health Information Technology, Coding, Medical Assisting and Radiologic Technology programs) as well as the Violet L Schumacher School of Nursing. Graduates also hailed from the Schools of Commerce and Technology as well as Legal Studies.
In his final message to the Class of 2019 in the Commencement Program, President Schumacher acknowledged the sacrifices made by so many to get to commencement – juggling work, families, school, and miles of travel weekly to get to class. “Whatever the sacrifice, you have endured it all for this reward – a college degree!” He also urged the graduates to continue believing in themselves, and never stop learning. “Tomorrow’s leaders will be those who are able to keep pace with the ever-changing trends in their career, society, and technology. Make time to learn what is new,” he advised.
Ja’Sheena Cathey, a graduate of the Violet L Schumacher School of Nursing, was selected as the 2019 Student Speaker. During her remarks at the ceremony, she likened her Class’s experience at Northwestern College to a Nigerian proverb that says it takes a whole village to raise one child, and how the effort can only be successfully completed by the collective efforts of a community of people. Cathey identified her Class’s “Village,” which included everyone from the College’s President to the faculty and staff, coupled with their encouraging parents and newfound friends at Northwestern College. According to Cathey, it was because of their Village that she and her fellow graduates would walk across the stage that night and accept their diplomas.
This year Northwestern College’s Class of 2019 was addressed by Dimitrios Kriaras, the College’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Kriaras began his career at Northwestern College in 2008 as a Campus Director, bringing with him an expansive background in higher education. During the course of his tenure, he served several years as a Campus Director and within executive administration before being named CEO in early 2018.
In his remarks to the Class of 2019, Kriaras focused on a central theme of the importance of setting A Plan for your lives, but continually stressed the importance of adapting those plans when “life gets in the way.”
Kriaras shared his own personal story about the plan he had set for his life as a young teen. It included the full scholarship he had gotten to Michigan State University to play baseball for four years, and thereafter, his hopes for a future with the New York Yankees. Unfortunately, Kriaras’s plan was shattered during his senior year of high school when a senior citizen failed to stop at a red light and hit Kriaras’s car while he was traveling 40 miles per hour. His car was thrown into oncoming traffic where two other cars were also hit.
This 4-car accident left Kriaras with punctured lungs, 2 herniated disks in his back, nerve damage all the way down to his toes, and a damaged disk in his neck. While back surgery addressed the immediate physical injuries, the accident left him unable to play baseball, which shattered the well-made Plan he had set for his life. The scholarship was rescinded. He had no other choice, he told the graduates, but to make a New Plan.
Kriaras went on to explain the path he followed after that accident, carving out a New Plan that did not include baseball. Instead, it included a local career college, time spent working in the family restaurant with his father and brother, and self-doubt as he learned completely new skills. With each obstacle thrown into his way, Kriaras explained how he had to alter his plans, adapting them so he could continue forward to achieve his goals.
In his remarks, Kriaras recognized the challenges that the graduates had faced while trying to obtain their own education and new careers. Families, jobs, sick relatives, adult responsibilities, and even their own self-doubt, he told them, may have gotten into the way. He commended them for adapting their plans, at least enough to ensure completion of their programs, resulting in the degrees they would receive that night.
College may not have been their first plan, or even their second or third he noted. “You had to adapt your plans,” he told the Class, “because life threw you some curveballs.”
Kriaras advised the graduates that the achievement of their degrees was just one step in their journey, and that their stories weren’t over. A new job, a higher position, or continuation of their educations would be part of the New Plans for their lives moving forward.
“Keep making those plans!” Kriaras implored of them in his concluding remarks. “But understand, that plan is going to change, either by you, or by circumstances beyond your control. So adapt! Change the plan to adjust to the curveballs that life throws you!”
Kriaras graduated from DeVry University in 1998 with a Bachelor of Science in Technical Management. In 2016 he earned his Master of Business Administration from Keller Graduate School of Management.
About Northwestern College:
Northwestern College (NC) is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, 230 S. LaSalle St., Suite 7-500, Chicago, IL 60604, (312) 263-0456, www.hlcommission.org. The college offers focused career-oriented associate degree and certificate programs with flexible schedules and a supportive faculty. Day, evening, weekend, online classes and online programs are available. More information can be found at www.NC.edu or by calling toll-free (888) 205-2283.