Illinois Central College Graduates Turn Their Tassels in Virtual Commencement

Illinois Central College hosted a virtual commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 15, to celebrate their recent graduates. Students and their families, along with faculty and staff, viewed the live ceremony via the college’s YouTube, Facebook, or commencement webpage.  

Participating graduates were presented with personalized slides, including their submitted photos, quotes, or messages of thanks. Student of the Year awards were presented to Kari L. McGinnis and Haylie Poirier, while Jennifer Keithley and Kelly Thannum were recognized with faculty awards.  

 “Today we have many reasons to celebrate. As the COVID vaccine becomes more readily available and we can begin safely resuming some activities, we also get to celebrate YOU and this significant achievement,” said ICC President Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey. “In fact, we have 1,253 reasons to celebrate, which is how many students have qualified for graduation and completed their requirements.” 

For the commencement address, the college welcomed back Dr. Keith Knepp, UnityPoint Health-Central Illinois CEO and ICC alumnus. Dr. Knepp’s heartfelt message included a comical story from his time as an ICC student, lessons learned from influential ICC instructors, and advice that has guided his life and career. 

Student speaker Courtney Privia also shared a message with the graduates. Privia discussed her goals, how she was able to achieve them at ICC, and her future plans. She ended her address by encouraging fellow classmates, “…wherever you are, or wherever you are going, your future is entirely yours.”  

 Dr. Quirk-Bailey shared, “As we celebrate each and every one of you graduating today, please know you are our inspiration. You are the reason… we are inspired beyond measure. We are inspired to find new ways of removing barriers to your success… we are inspired to never give up on our dreams, just as you refused to give up on yours, especially during the challenges of the past 14 months; and we are inspired to do our very best, every day…. because of you.” 

Prior to the event, the college mailed “celebration boxes” to the students who chose to participate in the virtual ceremony. The boxes included a cap and tassel, diploma cover, commencement programs, and many other celebratory items. The ICC community was encouraged to wear blue and gold and share photos on social media using the hashtag #ICCgrad2021. A graduate toolkit with social media frames, printable signs, computer and phone backgrounds, and even a music playlist was also created.  

On Friday, May 14, ICC hosted a Drive-Thru Photo Opportunity on the East Peoria Campus. Graduates were able to walk across an outdoor stage to have their picture taken with ICC President Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey. ICC mascot Cosmo the Cougar, ICC Board of Trustee members, faculty and staff were also present for photos with students. Unique backdrops and photo frames were available for family photo opportunities. 

A recording of the virtual ceremony is now available for graduates to share with family and friends. Graduates who preregistered and submitted personalized slides, as well as any graduate receiving a degree or certificate, can download their name slide to share. All links are available at