For the first time in school history, Lindenwood's Belleville campus will host graduation ceremonies in 2013.
Lindenwood Vice President Jerry Bladdick said Belleville graduates previously attended a ceremony at the school's main campus in St. Charles. Holding the event in Belleville represents a major step in the metro-east campus's evolution from a satellite office to a stand alone university.
"The growth we've achieved in Belleville is phenomenal," Bladdick said. "And we have no plans to stop. We're continuing to add new programs and other offerings all the time.
"The fact that the Belleville campus of the LU system is now hosting its first graduation ceremony speaks to the maturity of the campus and our growth within southwestern Illinois."
Newly elected Congressman Bill Enyart, a Democrat from Belleville, will be the keynote speaker.
"This is first ever commencement for the campus, and for me, it's a great honor to give the first commencement address," Enyart said. "I hope to give a message that resonates with the vitality of southwestern Illinois and the vitality that the Lindenwood campus has had on Belleville and the surrounding community."
Enyart was elected earlier this month to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, who is retiring after holding the office since 1988. Bladdick said Enyart was asked to speak even before he announced he would run for Congress.
Enyart said school leaders told him at the time that they wanted to have a speaker with a military background. Prior to retiring to make his Congressional bid, he served as the leader of the Illinois National Guard as Adjutant General.
"I couldn't have imagined back then all the things that would happen before the day came," Enyart said. He joked that maybe Lindenwood would be disappointed with his new career since he's no longer the military man they originally sought.
Lindenwood was purchased a decade ago from the City of Belleville for a dollar in a three-way deal with Belleville Township High School District 201 that found a new use for the abandoned old Belleville West.
The school began with night post graduate courses for educators. It soon added a wide slate of graduate and undergraduate courses for non-traditional night students before opening for daytime students four years ago.
Bladdick said Lindenwood now serves nearly 3,000 students overall. It has nearly 900 full time day students that fill its classrooms, a newly opened student center and the re-built football stadium to the rear of the campus that this year hosted college football for the first time.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-2626.