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Commencement speakers prepare for graduation speeches

As the year comes to a close, many seniors have only one thing on their mind: graduation. The all-important commencement ceremony in one week will be full of speakers to share their wisdom with the graduates as they continue on to the rest of their lives. The student speakers that have been chosen for the commencement ceremony are Alivia Tison and John Loonan.

Hispanic studies major Tison was nominated in early February, and later the senior class chose her from a list of six candidates to be the student speaker for the ceremony. In the past, Tison has volunteered as an usher so she is familiar with and enjoys the event.

Tison wants to reach a wide audience with her speech.

“I want to be as inclusive as possible,” Tison said. “I want to speak to the Bennies but also to all the friends and family that will be there in the audience.”

She also hopes to present a speech she feels will represent the group of Bennies who are graduating.

“I want to encompass who we are and what we brought to our four years here. It should be a collaboration of our time at this school,” Tison said.

In a similar process, economics major John Loonan was also nominated and selected to be the student speaker for the SJU commencement ceremony. Because Loonan’s brother was the speaker at the ceremony two years ago, Loonan is familiar with the process and has many ideas.

“I will try to have a theme or central message throughout the speech, but I also want it to sound like it’s coming from me,” Loonan said. “So I included some jokes and at times made it a little personal which I think others will be able to relate to as well.”

Students were glad to see Loonan chosen as the student speaker as well.

“I know he will do a great job of keeping everyone entertained and engaged and also bring a few laughs to the table,” senior Paul Guzik said. “The thing about John is that he can relate to almost everyone.”

Both student speakers spoke highly of the other candidates and were honored to have been picked from the group.

“I want to congratulate both Ryan Wold and Stephen Gross who were also elected; they are classic examples of how a Johnnie should act,” Loonan said.

The guest speaker for CSB this year will be Denise DeVaan ’75, and the speaker for the SJU ceremony will be Rev. Dennis Dease. DeVaan graduated in ’75 with a degree in theology and later earned her master’s degree in human development from Saint Mary’s.

“President Baenninger was very impressed with Ms. DeVaan’s acceptance speech upon receiving the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2011,” Chief of Staff Kathryn Enke said. “So she asked Ms. DeVaan to speak at CSB’s Centennial celebration.”

Her theme for the commencement May 11 is “A Clarion Call to Action.”

Dease earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin and philosophy from Saint Paul Seminary in 1965, a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of St. Thomas, and a doctorate in systematic theology from the Catholic University of America. Dease is currently the retiring president of the University of Saint Thomas.