Millikin University celebrates new graduates at the 2024 Spring Commencement

Degrees were given to more than 270 students during the ceremony on May 19.


DECATUR, Ill. – On Sunday, May 19, Millikin University honored more than 270 graduates from the Class of 2024 with two Commencement ceremonies in the Kirkland Fine Arts Center.

Spring Commencement
Students from the College of Arts & Sciences and the Tabor School of Business took the stage and received undergraduate and graduate degrees in front of friends and family in the morning ceremony. The College of Professional Studies and the College of Fine Arts did the same in the afternoon. 

The ceremonies featured opening remarks from Millikin President Dr. Jim Reynolds and student speakers Jake Shumaker and Alela Kinyua.

Jake, from Mount Zion, Ill., graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and spoke at the morning ceremony. In his speech titled “Authenticity & Appreciation,” Jake shared how his Millikin experience helped mold him.

Jake Shumaker
Millikin's Jake Shumaker speaks at the 2024 Spring Commencement morning ceremony. 

“Growing up in Decatur, I had the privilege of being on Millikin’s campus more times than I can count. I have had so many experiences here that have helped me be the person I am today,” he said. “Millikin has truly molded me into who I am, and none of this would be possible without my Big Blue family supporting me. In this exciting and sometimes stressful time, graduating can be overwhelming because we are unsure what the future has in store. Instead of being overwhelmed, let’s take a moment to be grateful and appreciative of Millikin and the life experiences that have led to this spectacular and memorable moment in our lives.” 

During his four years at Millikin, Jake was very involved as a student leader. He was a Scovill Award winner, the highest recognition at the annual Honors Convocation, selected based on high academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, service, and scholarship. Shumaker served as a Senior Consultant for the student-run venture Millikin University Performance Consulting (MUPC). Shumaker received the Podeschi-Landacre Management Information Systems Award, given to a student(s) who have shown excellence and leadership in Performance Learning experiences, and the Mathematics & Computer Science Award, given to outstanding junior or senior majoring in Mathematics or Computer Science. In Athletics, he was an NCAA Division III Track and Field All-American in the 800 meters, finishing fifth nationally during the 2023 Indoor Track season. 

Alela, from Hinesville, Georgia, graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in Art Therapy and spoke at the afternoon ceremony. Alela’s speech was titled “Time to Shine,” and she talked about taking advantage of post-graduation opportunities. 

Alela Kinyua
Millikin's Alela Kinyua speaks at the 2024 Spring Commencement afternoon ceremony. 

In her time at Millikin, Alela was the recipient of the Dr. J. Roger Miller Leadership Award, given to seniors who exemplify superior qualities of academic excellence and leadership, and the Dorothy Sellers Art Award, for outstanding achievement and potential, and setting a standard of excellence for the School of Art & Creative Media. She served as the President of the Black Student Union, was active in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and assisted Big Blue students as a Resident Assistant in Dolson Hall. 

“Collectively, my education, leadership positions, and the many relationships I made at Millikin have taught me that grace and kindness are essential attributes for growth and development,” Alela said. “Grace and kindness give us the ability to have understanding and compassion for one another, which we all desperately need right now. It also gives us the chance to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. As we step out into the world, it is now time for us to shine and remember to give ourselves the same grace and kindness that we give to others.”

The morning ceremony keynote speaker was Amber Kaylor, a Millikin Class of 2006 graduate and MBA graduate in 2016. As the CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois, Kaylor is a seasoned professional in the not-for-profit industry. A double alumna, Kaylor is driven by a commitment to serving others and has aided multiple organizations in reaching significant financial milestones. Previously, Kaylor served as the President and CEO of the Children’s Museum of Illinois, where she successfully executed a notable expansion focusing on first responders. 

Amber Kaylor
Millikin alum Amber Kaylor speaks at the 2024 Spring Commencement morning ceremony. 

Amber’s speech was titled “Do it Scared, Do it Anyway,” and she spoke about facing your fears head-on, including delivering a Commencement address that was more personal than she is typically used to. 

“I speak to people about the organization that I have the honor of leading quite often, and if that were the request, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But this requires me to share more of myself, and honestly, I find that terrifying. I thought, 'Do it scared, do it anyway,’ and here I am, completely out of my comfort zone,” Amber said. “Today marks a pivotal moment in your lives and you will face many moments in this life that you do not feel prepared or qualified for. Don’t ever let fear stop you from leaning into that opportunity. Do it scared and do it anyway.”

LaVon Fisher-Wilson, a Class of 1995 Millikin graduate, was the afternoon ceremony keynote speaker. Fisher-Wilson’s speech was titled “What Is Meant for You,” and she shared words of wisdom and tips for finding success after graduation. 

LaVon Fisher-Wilson
Millikin alum LaVon Fisher-Wilson speaks at the 2024 Spring Commencement afternoon ceremony. 

“You can have it all. Do you hear me? You can have it all. Having it all can look different for different people, and that’s OK. One’s person ‘have it all’ might be immersing themselves in your career, and they might not want to have a family,” she said. “Other people might want to try everything, and that’s fine. But what we aren’t going to do is let someone tell you or make you choose because that is not their business.”

As an actress and singer, LaVon has spent close to 20 years performing on the Broadway stage, with major roles in “The Color Purple,” “Chicago,” “Lysistrata Jones,” and “Newsies.” Her credits also include television and film roles, appearing in “Quantico,” HBO’s “Divorce,” Disney’s “Teen Beach Movie,” and many others. With the love of her husband, Darrell Wilson, she names her three best productions as Darrell Jr., Darrien, and DaVonna Wilson.

Alma Mater singers
Millikin graduates sing the "Alma Mater" at the 2024 Spring Commencement afternoon ceremony.

Millikin Chairman of the Board of Trustees Ronald Branch congratulated the new graduates, and Lindsey Quick, Class of 2015, welcomed the students as new members of Millikin’s Alumni Association. A performance of the “Alma Matter” concluded the ceremony. 

Congratulations to all the 2024 Spring Commencement graduates! 

Millikin graduates

Morning live stream: 


Afternoon live stream: