Blackburn Celebrates Class of 2024 During Graduation Weekend

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Photo of a giant crowd, Blackburn graduates seated and a full stage of administrators and guests during Blackburn College's 155th Commencement for the Class of 2024
By Office of Marketing & Public Relations
On May 13, 2024

On Saturday, May 11, 2024, Blackburn College in Carlinville, IL, held a ceremony honoring 95 graduates from the class of 2024. These events marked the College’s 155th Commencement exercise. While the Commencement event closed out graduation weekend, it began with a “Senior Send-Off” hosted by the Blackburn Alumni Association, followed by a student-centered Senior Convocation featuring thoughts and reflections from several members of the Class of 2024. Both ceremonies were streamed on the Blackburn website at

In his opening remarks, Dr. Gregory J. Meyer, president of Blackburn, welcomed families and friends to the event and recognized students’ journey to celebrate an achievement like graduation. “Today is the day you have been working toward for the last four or so years,” Meyer said. “That means 1,952 hours sitting in the classroom or standing on concrete lab floors. And then another 3,904 hours of studying and preparing for class (that’s the recommended dose, of course.) Then, you put in 1,260 hours for your Work assignments. We can’t even guess at the hours of practices, traveling, meetings, or volunteering… Here you are. Congratulations, you did it!”

He concluded, ”But, Class of 2024, you’re not done yet. You’re just getting started. That’s why we all showed up, and we are all here. To acknowledge all you have done so far and cheer you on.”

The Commencement ceremony on Saturday featured remarks from keynote speaker Al Sturgeon, Associate Dean of Student Life & Spiritual Development at the Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, and Senior Fellow and Adjunct Professor in its Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. Sturgeon also served as Vice President for Diverse & Equitable Student Life and Dean of Students at Blackburn College until July 2023. The uplifting message Sturgeon shared focused on the graduates’ personal power to change. “What you choose to do, day in and day out, flows from the deepest parts of you,” Sturgeon said. “Life can be hard because there is much injustice in the world, and there are circumstances that you have faced and will face that are unfair and unjust. But truth be told—and I’m here to tell you the truth—life is also hard because, all too often, we make it that way. From the deepest parts of ourselves emerge habits and practices that contribute to making life harder than it has to be.”

He continued, “But… You have the power to change all of that. A liberal arts education like you have received, combined with the unique work program that you have also experienced, combined with a residential education that has taught you additional life lessons, has given you special tools that you can use to shape what is to come. Hopefully, the combination of all that you have experienced will allow you to understand the potentially life-altering truth that I am attempting to share with you on this special day: You have the power to make choices that can alter your future in beautiful ways. So, remember, life can be hard, even after receiving a college education, but you are more powerful than you know, and you can shape that future with your choices.”

During Commencement, academic and leadership awards were presented to the graduating class, including naming Katilyn Nix, a Secondary Mathematics Education major from Springfield, IL, and Evan Hopper, a Physical Education major with K-12 Certification from Jerseyville, IL, class valedictorian, and salutatorian, respectively. The Blackburn Alumni Association also presented its Outstanding Graduate Award to Logan Ullrich, an environmental biology major from Diamond, IL.

President Meyer concluded the ceremony with a charge to the class of 2024. “As you journey forward, be you – be who you are, as you you were here. You are accepted, and you are the greatest gift you have to offer. Be present, be kind, be generous, and be you.”

During Friday evening’s Senior Convocation, several members of the Class of 2024 addressed their fellow graduates and shared their reflections on their incredible journeys at Blackburn.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of my college journey has been the friendships I’ve forged along the way,” said Jada Lurry, a Sports Management major from Eads, TN. “Whether it was the camaraderie of my teammates on the field or the sense of community among my colleagues in the Work Program, I found solace and support in the company of those who shared my passions and aspirations. Together, we laughed, we cried, and we grew stronger, forming bonds that will last a lifetime.”

Lurry continued, “Blackburn is a special place, one of a kind. It’s a place where someone can become a leader, develop personal and professional skills in and out of the classroom or on and off the field or court, and lastly, find forever friends through the many activities on campus that bring us all together.”

During her remarks, Claire Stein, a Psychology major from Kampsville, IL, shared her collegiate journey starting at a large university in a city and her discovery that transferring to Blackburn was “the best decision I ever made.” She shared, “The most meaningful part of my experience at Blackburn is the fact that I was able to write my own story. This environment gave me the confidence to reach and exceed everything I thought possible for myself. I went to Washington DC and lobbied for Work College funding, I presented my countless hours of senior seminar research at a conference in Chicago, and I worked at a non-profit organization in Carlinville serving developmentally disabled adults where I was making a real difference in the lives of under-served individuals. I have found my greatest passions here.”

Jaime Pineda, a justice Administration major from Dayton, TX, reminded his classmates of just how far they had come from beginning college during a pandemic. “We came in as freshmen and felt that the world was at a standstill,” he said. “Although through the tough times, we have prevailed.”

“Being at Blackburn has been a ride. I came in as a small freshman trying to figure out what I should expect from college,” he continued. “Blackburn has prepared me for the next step in my life, and I am confident it has done the same for you.”