Harper College will be closed Wednesday, June 19 in observance of Juneteenth National Freedom Day.

Harper College

Commencement ceremony symbolizes pursuit to educate all Americans

President Ken Ender addresses graduatesA record number of graduates representing diverse walks of life and impressive scholarly achievement walked across the stage at Harper College’s 51st annual Commencement Ceremony.

Of the 3,800 graduates to receive transfer, career and technical degrees and certificates this year, nearly 800 graduates were recognized Saturday in front of more than 5,000 friends and family.

“Today, we celebrate and reflect on all your hard work, all the triumphs you’d had, the obstacles you’ve overcome, all the challenges and opportunities you’ve embraced, so today you can walk across the stage,” said Dr. Ken Ender, president of Harper College.

The ceremony was an especially appropriate bookend to Dr. Ender’s 10-year tenure at Harper, which ends June 30.

Commencement took place in the newly dedicated Drs. Kenneth and Catherine Ender Pavilion, now adorned with a plaque that reads, “Where every student’s success is celebrated.” Harper’s commitment to student success has led the college’s graduation rate to more than double over the last decade.

Commencement speaker Dr. Martha Kanter addresses graduatesHarper also welcomed as its commencement speaker Dr. Martha Kanter, who leads the College Promise Campaign, a national initiative to increase access, affordability, quality and completion in American higher education.

During Dr. Ender’s November 2009 installation speech, the still-new president actually evoked the words of Kanter, then part of President Barack Obama’s administration.

“As Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter likes to say, we must educate the ‘top 100%’ of our citizens,” Dr. Ender said at the time. “For our country to enjoy widely shared prosperity, we must change the educational enterprise as we currently know it.”

Harper, of course, went on to launch its own Promise Scholarship Program, offering eligible students in High School Districts 211, 214 and 220 an opportunity to earn up to two years of tuition at Harper.

Though the first class of Promise Scholars doesn’t arrive until this fall, Promise’s impact already is widespread.

About 95% of this year’s high school freshmen – or 6,374 students – signed up for Promise, while more than 6,200 sophomores, juniors and seniors continue to meet criteria based on attendance, rigor/quality, persistence and community service.

President Ken Ender at the podiumPromise Scholars have completed more than 100,000 volunteer hours, and $18.6 million in revenue has been generated to support Promise for years to come.

In addition to lauding Harper for helping to lead the national Promise movement, Kanter advised Harper graduates to be confident, listen well, take risks, and lead in the search for truth and civil discourse. She also urged graduates to become ambassadors for the mission of community colleges.

“As you go forward, I hope you will speak forcefully of the benefits you accrued,” she said. “Talk to your siblings, friends, aunts, uncles and kids, and help ensure that at this time, when a high school education is insufficient for success in the 21st century, higher education is going to be kept accessible and affordable to all, no matter one’s life circumstances.”

Last Updated: 3/14/24