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Lewis University Commencement programs were first printed in 1952 with the first formal Commencement at what was then Lewis College of Science and Technology, in Lockport, Illinois (boundaries have since changed to put Lewis in Romeoville, Illinois). The Commencement programs do not cover the entire history of the institution. The school opened in 1932 as all boys secondary institution, Holy Name Technical School; becoming a more advanced technical school, Lewis Holy Name School of Aeronautics, in 1935; then Lewis College of Science and Technology in 1946; and informally Lewis College when it became a four-year co-ed institution in 1950; and formally Lewis College in 1958. In 1960, the Christian Brothers, a lay Catholic teaching order, assumed control of the college, and in 1973 the institution became Lewis University.
Besides all the Commencement programs beginning in 1952, this collection also includes graduation lists beginning in 1947, variously high school graduates (the school had a high school department then), mechanics graduates, aviation graduates, science and aviation graduates, and liberal arts graduates, through 1951. Commencement programs began in 1952 with one program in June (moved to May in 1964). In 1972 mid-year Commencements were begun with the College of Continuing Education in February, and then for the entire school in January of 1973. The first Commencement as Lewis University was in January of 1974. Mid-year commencements ended with the January 1978 Commencement, not to resume until 1993. In 2003, mid-year Commencement was moved from January to December.
For the years they cover, 1947 to the present, the graduation lists and the Commencement programs serve as a valuable resource for the history of Lewis University, providing information the names of the leaders of the school, names of Commencement speakers and other speakers, as well as the lists of graduates. They serve as a genealogical resource on individuals who attended and graduated from the school, and a resource for biographers. In the early years, the Commencement usually featured a Commencement Speaker, generally a religious, political, civic, or business leader, among them Illinois Senator Everett Dirkson, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, W. Clement Stone of Combined Insurance Company, and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago. This practice ended in 1984, and thereafter the University President gave the "President's Message."
As Lewis University grew in size and numbers over the years the Commencement Programs have grown in size as well, while the ceremonies have become less lengthy and elaborate to allow time for the conferring of all the degrees. In 2009, Lewis University opened a new site in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the first Commencement took place in 2011, beginning the addition of a third program for each year to the collection.
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