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Author Joan Bauer speaks at Judson commencement

Renowned author Joan Bauer gives keynote address JudsUniversity’s 68th commencement Saturday. | Denise Moran~ For Sun-Times Media

Renowned author Joan Bauer gives the keynote address at Judson University’s 68th commencement on Saturday. | Denise Moran~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 18, 2013 6:04AM

ELGIN — Renowned author, speaker, screenwriter and songwriter Joan Bauer challenged the fall 2012 graduates of Judson University this weekend to “go forth and set the world on fire.”

“To have important work to do is a gift from God, but we have to keep the excitement going,” Bauer said. “There will be times when it gets tough, and you will lose the fire. I write about people who care about work. It’s good to aim high, but you have to enjoy the trip. Life is learned more on the road than when you get to the destination.”

A total of 148 students received their bachelor’s and master’s degrees on Saturday inside Herrick Chapel at Judson University, 1151 North State Street in Elgin.

The university also has a campus at 1055 Featherstone Road in Rockford.

Bauer was the keynote speaker at both the morning and afternoon commencements on Saturday. She has won numerous awards, including the Newberry Honor Medal, for her 11 novels which have been translated into eight languages. Her “Rules of the Road” novel was chosen as one of the top young adult books of the quarter century by the American Library Association.

“She is a woman of deep faith who uses words to reach the world,” said Dr. William Crothers, Judson University interim president. “Her books are like a warm quilt with a cup of hot chocolate on a snowy day.”

Bauer was born and raised in the Chicago area. She now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. with her husband, computer scientist Evan Bauer. She has one grown daughter. She is currently co-writing a musical adaptation of her novel, “Squashed.”

For her 50th birthday, Bauer said that her husband gave her a model ship with 21 sails.

“All of the sails were in full sail,” Bauer said. “I like to think of my life that way. The one thing we can count on in life is change. We can’t manage that, but we can manage ourselves. Push yourselves out to sea.”

While everyone was excited about the graduation, they took time for a moment of silence in remembrance of the 27 people, including 20 children, who were killed on Friday in Newtown, Conn.

“Some of our graduates will become teachers,” Crothers said. “Friday was a tragic day.”

There were a number of awards presented to the fall 2012 graduates.

Elmhurst resident Benjamin Zulauf, who earned a Master’s Degree of Education in Literacy, received the Road to Damascus Award.

Elgin resident Emily Moxness, an elementary education major, received the Student Service Award.

The President’s Scholar Award was given to Peoria resident Joseph Monahan, an exercise and sport science major, and Denise Tassoni of Rockford, who majored in management and leadership.

“I work at GE Aviation in Loves Park,” said Tassoni. “I’m hoping to become a program manager. My twin sister, Debbie, inspired me to earn my degree. At the age of 46, she went back to school and became a veterinarian.”

Matthew Langton of Marengo, who majored in Special Education, received the Lincoln Student Laureate Award.

St. Charles resident Thomas Nicoski received his Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership degree and the Ames Leadership Award.

“I was part of an online cohort with a student in Minnesota, a student in Rockford, and a student from China who was living in California,” Nicoski said. “I did not have to come to the campus. The whole master’s program for 16 months was done online. It teaches you how to more effectively lead people.”

Nicoski is Kane County chief of GIS Technologies. He has worked for the county since 1992. His wife, Wendy, is a database programmer/analyst at Judson University. Their daughter, Jodi Bingman of Elgin, attended the graduation.

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