Winter Convocation


The Commerce Winter Convocation Ceremony took place on Sunday, December 20, 1998, in the Great Hall of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Over 100 undergraduate and graduate students participated in the ceremony.

Elysia Jiang, a marketing major from Wheaton, won the student-speaker competition, beating out a tough field of challengers from all departments in the college. Looking back on her time at Illinois — and already expressing nostalgia for the good times — Elysia summed up the costs in this way:

John Lassiter, Elysia Jiang, and Howard Thomas before the convocation.
  • "Tuition and Board . . . $40,000;
  • Laundry . . . $3,000 in quarters;
  • Books . . . $2,000 minus the $50
    I got when selling them back;
  • Memories and experiences . . . Priceless."
"Life isn't what the world brings to you, but instead, what you bring to the world."

Elysia Jiang, graduate in marketing

For Elysia, "college experiences have definitely helped to shape who we are today. We've all learned valuable lessons," in the traditional areas of knowledge that you would expect, but also in "countless other ways outside the classroom." Elysia concluded: "College isn't only what you learn in class, but also what you learn outside it . . . . I know I will leave this university confident in the knowledge that I can calculate the time-value of money, that I can work in any group situation, and that even I can eventually understand the basic principles of intermediate microeconomics . . . . We'll also remember the people we've met, the friends we've made, and the things we've been able to achieve on this campus . . . . By looking beyond our classes and   participating in these activities we've enriched the U of I campus, the Champaign-Urbana community, and we've also enriched our own lives." In summing up, Elysia offered four pieces of advice, modified from those she received from a high school teacher before she came to college: "Learn from your strengths and weaknesses. Remember to keep things in perspective. Life isn't what the world brings to you, but instead, what you bring to the world. Memories don't just present themselves, they're made." And for Elysia, the memory of her graduation day was made by sharing it with her Mom, who traveled all the way from Taiwan to be with her on this momentous occasion.

John Lassiter, president of Financial Designs of Illinois, Inc., was the distinguished alumni speaker. Lassiter, who earned a B.S. in Economics in 1959, is the current president of the Commerce Alumni Association.

In a rousing speech, Lassiter congratulated the graduates in this way: ". . . all will revel in the joy of what you have accomplished here. You have survived and thrived in a demanding academic environment. You are now prepared to join the elite of American society, Illinois Commerce graduates, the people who really run things."

His best advice for the graduates, and a formula for accomplishing every success in life is simple — it can be summed in two words — Enjoy Yourself! He exhorted students to "enter into a sacred agreement with yourself — to join yourself with the attainment of Joy in your heart and in your soul." The Lassiter family definition of joy goes beyond that in Webster's dictionary — it defines joy as a "continuous, exhilarating, internal, celebration of life."

According to Lassiter, some of the ways to attain success, which leads to joy, are to practice "four amazingly simple habits" suggested by Dan Sullivan in his book How the Best Get Better. "Show up on time; do what you say; finish what you start; say please and thank you." Since most Illinois graduates will spend time in what Lassiter calls a "Results Economy," where you are only rewarded for what you produce, rather than a "Time and Effort Economy," where you are rewarded for showing up and exerting yourself, these four habits will help you attain solid success. And once you have success, Lassiter urged, share it with others. There is great joy in that too.

What constitutes joy for one person may not constitute joy for another, so Lassiter exhorted everyone to find his/her own personal joy in business and in "everyday personal relationships." For example, "I get great joy from meeting people, understanding people, and talking with people," Lassiter reported. "And for doing this, life pays me with a most successful executive benefits and consulting business. My mentor, Lester McKeever, a fellow Illini Commerce student in the `50s, always found joy in the orderly presentation of accounts, the resolution of numbers, the unraveling of the stories told by financial statements. Life rewarded his joy by providing him with a strong Public Accounting firm, as well as the chairmanship of the Chicago Federal Reserve Board of Directors."

In closing, Lassiter referred back to the all-important four habits that will help those graduating today to Enjoy Life.

The Office for Undergraduate Affairs coordinates the ceremony with the help of Commerce Council, a student service organization. All departments participate in this joyous event. This year, as every year since the college began holding a Winter Convocation Ceremony, Commerce Council underwrote the costs of the ceremony and reception. Roland Thomas, vice president external, and Stephanie Katz, president, helped Dean Thomas hand out the diploma covers and certificates.