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Commencement ceremonies to take place May 12 at Illinois

5/1/2013 | Jeff Unger, News Bureau | 217-3331085;

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The 142nd commencement of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be held in two ceremonies May 12 (Sunday) at Assembly Hall, 1800 S. First St., Champaign.

U. of I. alumnus Shahid Khan, an entrepreneur who got his start at Urbana’s Flex-N-Gate automotive supply company, will speak at both ceremonies.

Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen who left Pakistan in 1967 at age 16 to attend the U. of I., started working for Flex-N-Gate in 1970 while he was studying engineering at Illinois. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and was immediately hired as Flex-N-Gate’s engineering manager.

Khan left the company in 1978, starting his own company, Bumper Works, with a $50,000 small business loan and $13,000 in savings. Two years later, thanks to his new company’s success, he purchased Flex-N-Gate. The merger of the companies marked the transition from making aftermarket auto parts to becoming an original equipment manufacturer, as well as the point at which Flex-N-Gate became a global supplier.

In 2011, Khan was inducted as a Lincoln Laureate by the state of Illinois. He owns the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League.

Fred Robert Volkmar, M.D., and James A. Thomson will receive honorary degrees at the morning ceremony.

Volkmar is being honored for his role as a world leader in understanding and treating autistic spectrum disorders. He tackles such key issues as seizure disorders in autism and the association between autism and schizophrenia.

Volkmar was the principal investigator on a large-scale longitudinal study of children with autism that is still being conducted at 10 centers nationwide. He is the editor of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and the director of the Yale University Child Study Center as well as a professor of child psychiatry, pediatrics and psychology at Yale University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Illinois in 1972.

Thomson is being honored for his international leadership in biomedical research. He directed the group that reported the first isolation of embryonic stem cell lines from a nonhuman primate in 1995, work that led his group to the first successful isolation of human embryonic stem cell lines in 1998. He is the director of regenerative biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

He is a founder and chief scientific officer for Cellular Dynamics International, a company producing derivatives of human induced pluripotent stem cells for drug discovery and toxicity testing. Thomas earned his bachelor’s degree in biophysics at Illinois in 1981.

The University of Illinois Alumni Association will present four Alumni Achievement Awards, three during the ceremonies and one at a dinner May 11.

The recipient in the morning ceremony is William A. Edelstein, who is being honored for his pioneering research in magnetic resonance imaging. Edelstein was the primary inventor of the revolutionary “spin warp” imaging technique, which is still used in all commercial MRI systems. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Institute of Physics and the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, which awarded him its Gold Medal Prize in 1990. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at Illinois in 1965.

The recipients at the afternoon ceremonies are Christie L. Gilson and Mary Kay Kretch Haben.
Gilson is being honored for her work as a global advocate for people with disabilities. A faculty member at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., Gilson has used her knowledge to improve educational and workplace opportunities for people with disabilities across the globe. Her efforts have included using Voice over IP (VoIP) technology to teach English to blind adults in China and the mentoring of young people with disabilities in Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan and the United States. Gilson earned a master’s degree in social work at Illinois in 2001 and a doctorate in special education at Illinois in 2008.

Haben is being honored for exemplary volunteer leadership and service to the alumni association, the U. of I. Foundation and the College of Business. Haben – who retired in 2011 after a 33-year career as a marketing executive for Kraft Foods and the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. – has been extraordinarily generous in sharing her time, expertise and financial support with her alma mater.
She is a past chair of the alumni association board of directors, serves as a board member for the foundation and plays an active part in the association’s Illinois Connection advocacy network. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Illinois in 1977.

Thomas Siebel, who will receive his award at the May 11 commencement dinner, is being honored for his leadership in defining the computer software industry and helping to create Silicon Valley.
The chairman and chief executive officer of C3 Energy, a software company that helps reduce an organization’s carbon footprint, he previously founded and led Siebel Systems, one of the world’s leading business software companies, which merged with Oracle Corp. in 2006. Siebel is recognized as one of the world’s top philanthropists, having created The Siebel Foundation and The Meth Project Foundation to improve education, scholarship, community life and prevention of teen drug use. He continues to generously support the university, where he established the Siebel Center for Computer Science and endowed two professorships. He was elected last month to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in history in 1975, a master of business administration in 1983, a master of science in computer science in 1985 and an honorary doctorate of engineering in 2006, all at Illinois.

At the morning ceremony, candidates in the colleges of Applied Health Sciences; Law; Liberal Arts and Sciences; Media; Veterinary Medicine; the Institute of Aviation; the School of Labor and Employment Relations; the School of Social Work; and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science will receive degrees.

Candidates in the colleges of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering; and Fine and Applied Arts will receive degrees at the afternoon ceremony.
Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. for the morning ceremony and at 1 p.m. for the afternoon ceremony. After all students and their guests are seated, the remaining seats will be available to the public.

Shuttle buses also will stop at various campus locations, including Assembly Hall, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

All students who have earned bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees and advanced certificates during the preceding year are honored at the annual commencement.

All graduating students and their guests are invited to a reception from 8 to 9:30 a.m. May 12 in the gardens of the president’s house, 711 W. Florida Ave., Urbana. Academic attire is encouraged.

The first floor of the main library will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. May 11 and 12 for visitors and students to view the University Honors Bronze Tablets. Many individual U. of I. units have scheduled additional commencement ceremonies.

More information is available online.

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