The Commencement Stage at Graduation

Graduates Who Have Made Their Mark

by Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney '10



Robert Watkins '18

Photo of Robert Watkins '18


  • Business Administration major and Leadership Studies minor from LaGrange, Illinois

  • President of the Student Government Association

  • Co-designer of McKendree’s Active Learning Center and theHub

  • Founding Chapter President of the National Society of Leadership and Success at McKendree

  • Member of McKendree’s 117th Regiment Cyber Defense Team

  • Named to the President’s List and Dean’s List

  • Chosen for “Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges” in 2017

  • Member of Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Eta Sigma, and Sigma Beta Delta Honor Societies

  • Internships with McKendree Student Success Center, Information Technology Department, and Leadership Office

  • Member of Marketing Club, Green Team, and Phi Beta Lambda Business Fraternity

  • New Student Orientation Leader and Peer Mentor for UNI 101 Class

  • Men’s Volleyball Team

Whether they know it or not, every student who uses McKendree’s one-of-a-kind Active Learning Center and the high-tech collaboration space known as theHub, has witnessed how senior Robert Watkins ’18 made his mark. As a business administration major with a passion for leading new projects, Robert took advantage of every opportunity to make a difference for his fellow students and generations of Bearcats to come.

The result was the creation of two innovative campus facilities that promote student learning in a brand new way. “The Active Learning Center was born out of a project in my Management Information Systems class,” he said. “The purpose was to take underutilized spaces on campus and create proposals to have them transformed into an environment synonymous with the concept of active learning.”

Serving as project manager for his class, Robert applied real-world management skills to create a project timeline, oversee budgets, and develop 3-D models for the proposed space. When he and his team of classmates presented their plans to University administrators, they were sold on the idea. The center now serves as a versatile 24/7 meeting space and non-traditional classroom that engages students like never before.

Outside of his classes, Robert found even more ways to make a difference on campus and grow his leadership skills. He founded the McKendree chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success and interned with the Student Success Center, Leadership Office, and IT Department. “Each one of those areas required a different type of skill set, which really tested me to step out of my comfort zone and learn how to mitigate those situations,” he said.

Through his work with the McKendree IT Department, Robert helped design, develop, and implement another major project, theHub. The new facility connects students from all majors in a highly collaborative setting, giving them access to technologies such as virtual reality and 3D printing to develop projects that span across disciplines.

Now, Robert is pursuing his MBA from McKendree and serving as a graduate intern in the President’s Office. He plans to earn a law degree later, but for now, he continues to call McKendree home.

“On my first visit in 2014, something just felt right,” he recalled.

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“If I had the chance to go back and choose any institution to attend, knowing what and whom I know now, it would be McKendree, bar none.”



Bailey Rhoades '18

Photo of Bailey Rhoades '18


  • Health and Wellness major from St. Charles, Missouri

  • Volunteer Coordinator for the Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service

  • Started Homeless Outreach Program at McKendree and coordinated events for the annual Hunger and Homelessness Week

  • Coordinator for Trinity Services

  • Student Ambassador

  • Member of Wonders of Wellness Club

  • Member of Phi Eta Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Societies

  • President of Colleges Against Cancer

  • Coordinated 2016, 2017, and 2018 Relays for Life at McKendree

  • Named to President’s and Dean’s List

  • Chosen for “Who’s Who Among American Universities and Colleges” in 2017

  • Internship at Make-a-Wish Missouri

From bringing Relay for Life to McKendree to starting a homeless outreach program, senior health and wellness major Bailey Rhoades ’18 understands that the joy in giving back to others comes from knowing what it truly means to receive help when you need it the most.

Bailey knew she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives even before she enrolled at McKendree. As a recipient of the Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service scholarship, she was excited to serve as a student coordinator for a wide variety of volunteer programs and events. Her leadership abilities soon helped her become a voice on campus for the homeless, as well as adults with disabilities.

During Hunger and Homelessness Week, she coordinated events, such as Empty Bowls and the Sleep-Out on the Quad, to make students aware of what it really feels like to be homeless. Not only was it important to Bailey to promote understanding of the issues people face, but it was even more meaningful to do something about it. As a result, she organized student volunteers to assist weekly at four local homeless shelters and led a group at Trinity Services to spend time with disabled adults.

Looking back on her years at McKendree, however, Bailey is most proud of her role as president of Colleges Against Cancer and the start of Relay for Life on campus. “When I was two years old, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia,” she said. “I understand the horrible grip that cancer has on the patient and their families. It is so important to me, as a survivor, to continue to fight and advocate for those who are currently fighting and those who have lost the fight. I have worked hard to ensure that our Relay increases in size each year, and we have successfully met every goal we have set. I am proud that more students have become involved and supported the wonderful cause that my group works so hard to make happen. As a cancer survivor, it makes me incredibly happy to see the support from the university that has been my home the past four years.”

Bailey and her fellow students raised $3,500 at the 2016 McKendree Relay for Life and $5,100 in 2017. They plan to bring in even more for the American Cancer Society in this year’s race.

Somewhere between her volunteer work, health classes, and internship with Make-a-Wish Missouri, Bailey found her calling as a McKendree student. She will pursue her master’s in occupational therapy at Kansas University Medical Center with the goal of working as an occupational therapist for cancer patients and those with disabilities.

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“McKendree has opened me to many self-empowering and self-learning opportunities, and I will treasure the memories and miss the amazing people I will be leaving when I graduate,” she said.



Hannah Dean '18

Photo of Hannah Dean '18


  • Dual Psychology and Religious Studies major from Normal, Illinois

  • Named to the Dean’s List

  • President of Psi Chi Honor Society and Historian of Theta Alpha Kappa Honor Society

  • Member of Pi Gamma Mu and Phi Eta Sigma Honor Societies and Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority

  • Student Worker with the Center for Faith & Spirituality

  • Founded the Agape Latte program at McKendree

  • Participated in two immersion trips to Nicaragua and two mission trips to the Dominican Republic

For the dual psychology and religious studies major Hannah Dean ’18, life at McKendree is about more than the classes, internships, and extracurriculars; it’s about the people you meet along the way. Through her travels to Nicaragua and her work to bring the McKendree community closer together, she has made her mark to demonstrate we all have more in common with each other than we think.

Hannah has been deeply involved with the Center for Faith & Spirituality ever since her freshman year. As a student worker for Chaplin Tim Harrison, she had the opportunity to not only participate in a host of student activities, but also help plan and lead them. From weekly student-led chapel services to a speaker series to Global Awareness Week events, Hannah played a major role in bringing spiritual growth and cultural appreciation to her fellow students.

One of her proudest accomplishments is bringing the Agape Latte program to McKendree. “Agape Latte is a program that was started at Boston University to help bridge the gap between faculty, staff and students,” she explained. “I was flown to Boston to see one of their Agape Lattes, and I worked with their staff and Rev. Tim Harrison to bring it here. During an event, students come and get a free t-shirt, coffee, and cheesecake, and they get to hear a faculty or staff’s story about their life. Agape Latte is all about bringing people together and forming relationships.”

Hannah made even more personal connections during the McKendree immersion trips to Nicaragua. In addition to fun activities like zip-lining down a volcano, she and other students learned firsthand what life is like for the people who work on the guava farm and sweatshop they visited. Living with and talking with the locals gave Hannah a much broader perspective on life that she continues to carry with her today.

“The thing that impacted me the most on these trips was just the people,” she said. “Nicaraguans are very selfless, and they care about people deeply. I could give you numerous examples of people showing true compassion and generosity towards us on the trips. They would do anything for their family and community. They also rely on God for everything and praise him in every situation. It taught me how I want to live my life; less focused on my to-do list and social media and more focused on relationships and family.”

After graduation, Hannah plans to move to Washington, obtain her master’s degree in counseling, and work as family and children’s counselor.  “I have learned to make time for people even when it seems like your to-do list is never ending because people have made time for me,” she said.

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“I appreciate the professors who have taken time out of their busy schedules to pour into my life and care about me.”




Sarah Wille '18

Photo of Sarah Willie '18


  • Health and Wellness major from Hoffman Estates, Illinois

  • Named to President’s and Dean’s Lists

  • Member of National Society of Leadership and Success

  • President of Wonders of Wellness Club

  • Representative on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee

  • Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) Bowler of the Year for 2017-2018

  • On the winning team for the 2017 NCAA Intercollegiate Women’s Bowling Championship and the 2017 United States Bowling Congress Intercollegiate Team Championships

  • National Tenpin Coaches Association (NTCA) All-American Honorable Mention in 2017-2018

  • NTCA All-American Team Honors in 2016-2017

  • Internship at Healthworks! Kids’ Museum St. Louis

  • Volunteer with Special Olympics

What does it feel like to make national sports history with your team? Ask senior health and wellness major Sarah Wille ’18, and she’ll tell you how her team won two national bowling championships within just one week. Starting out as a freshman the same year that internationally-renown bowler Shannon O’Keefe was hired for head coach, Willie has discovered what it means to be part of a team that not only wins championships, but also helps you become the best person you can be.

“It has been amazing to grow within the McKendree bowling program and watch it evolve over the years,” she said. “To have been a part of history as an NCAA National Champion and an ITC National Champion last year has by far been one of the best experiences in my entire life. It’s a memory I will never forget.”

As only the second team ever to win both national championships within the same week, the 2016-2017 McKendree women’s bowling team made headlines across the United States and experienced a surge of support from the entire Bearcat community. Ironically, Willie recalls how limited her knowledge of the game was when she first joined the team in 2014 and how much she grew as a player in a short amount of time. “I never would have seen myself as a varsity player my freshman year, but my coaches saw something in me that I didn’t,” she said. “Ever since my first collegiate tournament, I was driven to become the best version of myself on and off the lanes. I’ve learned that work ethic is the most important key to achieving what you want.”

Sarah’s commitment to success showed in her academics as well, earning her a place on the President’s and Dean’s Lists. Having close relationships with her professors, coaches, and teammates, she says, helped make her the dedicated bowler, scholar, and friend she is today. After graduation, she is immediately set to join the Professional Women’s Bowling Association and will bowl on tour for the summer. This fall, she plans to start working towards her master’s degree in public health with the goal of one day creating and implementing wellness programs in a corporate or school setting.

Sarah says she’s taking away many wonderful memories from her time at McKendree, most notably those with her teammates, or as she calls them, her family.

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“Having fun on our car rides during tournaments and winning regular season tournaments together will be unforgettable. It’s moments like those that you cherish the time you spend with your family.”



Benjamin Richter '18

Photo of Benjamin Richter '18


  • Art major from Troy, Illinois

  • Captain of Men’s Cross Country team and member of Men’s Track and Field team

  • Academic All-GLVC Honoree for 2016-2017

  • Cross Country representative for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee

  • Writer and illustrator for McKendree Review student newspaper

  • Assistant track and field coach for Lebanon Junior High team

  • Named to Dean’s List

  • Member of Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Eta Sigma Honor Societies

  • Artwork featured in Art St. Louis’ multimedia exhibit “Varsity Art XXII” in March 2018

  • Artwork featured in the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s 2018 James I. Applegate Student Art Exhibition in Springfield, Illinois

  • Artwork featured in the All Students Show and Senior Exhibition at McKendree’s Gallery of Art

  • Member of McKendree Art Club and Campus Activities Board

As a child growing up mesmerized by the magic of PIXAR animation, senior art major Ben Richter ’18 always knew what field he wanted to go into. Once at McKendree, however, he discovered the challenge of working with a host of artistic mediums beyond just animation, giving him the means to explore and push past what he thought he could achieve.

“The art program at McKendree creates a more well-rounded experience, and I’ve become a lot better at mediums in which I’ve never dabbled in before,” Ben said. “My time here has introduced me to computer software that’s allowed me to bring my cartoons, comics, and illustrations into a more professional light.”

In addition to trying out new mediums, Ben honed his skills in several different styles that gained attention from both professors and art judges. This past year, he has had artwork featured in two different area exhibits, as well as McKendree’s own Gallery of Art. Outlook, his senior art show at McKendree, was one of the most memorable to him because of the freedom he had to create art pieces that would communicate a bit of himself to the audience. “I use my comics, music, and illustrations as an outlet of expression – to tell stories, create feelings, or open discussions,” he said. “I aim to develop an experience from my artwork to the spectators that provides insight into the way I see myself, what is important to me, and the world I’m a part of.”

Outside of class, Ben contributes his original poetry, illustrations, articles, and comics to the McKendree Review student newspaper. He also competes on the Bearcat cross country and track and field teams, as well as writes and performs his own music on campus. The camaraderie with his teammates and late night sessions in Bensonwood with his fellow art students are some of the things he’ll miss most about his McKendree experience.

While Ben is considering graduate school, he plans to continue creating artwork that interests him and developing an audience that leads to a career in illustration. For now, he is sharing his love of track and field as an assistant coach for the Lebanon Junior High team.

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“There are so many fun and encouraging people in the Art Department that made every class or late hour work session an interesting one. The relationships I've made with teammates and classmates have not only created memories, but have also helped shape the person I am,” he said.



Emma Webster '18

Photo of Emma Webster '18


  • English Literature and Writing major from Macedonia, Illinois

  • Member of the Speech and Debate team

  • Won the 2017 Missouri State Championship in Communication Analysis

  • Named to Dean’s List

  • Performed in four McKendree Theatre productions, The Green Bird, The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, Curtains, and The Importance of Being Earnest

Although she describes herself as a shy person, senior English major Emma Webster ’18 is anything but timid when she takes to the stage. As an award-winning member of the McKendree Speech and Debate team and an active performer in numerous campus theatre productions, she has found that it’s worth getting out of your comfort zone to do something you love.

One of the biggest decisions in Emma’s McKendree experience that she almost didn’t make was to join the campus’ nationally-recognized Speech and Debate team. “I had already done speech all four years of my high school career, and I actually did not plan on continuing the activity after I graduated high school,” she said. “However, Dr. Stephen Hagan sort of found me at every high school speech meet he judged and essentially said, ‘Okay, I want you on my team; you’re joining.’ So, I did, and it was one of the best decisions I made in my collegiate career.”

Emma excelled on the team, earning honors at semifinal rounds in national tournaments and taking first place in communication analysis at the Missouri State Championship last year. Even more meaningful than the awards, however, are the ways in which she has grown from the experience and the lifelong friends she has made. “Sometimes an accomplishment doesn’t come with a title or trophy,” she said. “Sometimes it arrives in the form of making a breakthrough in a character we’ve been working on or finally having an entire speech memorized without any stumbles. All of my fondest memories of being on the speech team don’t even necessarily relate to winning — it’s the fact that I found a community of such astounding individuals who are so supportive of each other.”

On stage at the Hett, Emma found another way to apply her creative energies through theatre. With performances in four productions, she learned to put her shyness aside so that audiences would fall in love with the characters and stories she also adores. “I want to perform; I want to get my message across to an audience, and so I have to fling myself out of my comfort zone, adopt a new confident persona, and just pretend like the whole world is waiting to hear what I have to say. It’s exhilarating!” she said.

After graduation, Emma plans to continue sharing her message with others as a teacher. She will be pursuing her master’s in English this fall before going on for her doctorate.


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“I learned that, if presented with the chance to do something that sounds even remotely interesting, one should absolutely take that chance,” Emma said.

“The Theatre Department and the speech team will both continue to thrive long after I’m gone, but to be a part of these communities was an opportunity that I am forever grateful to have taken.”


Make It McKendree