Home  :  News and Events  :  News Details  

IL Supreme Court Chief Justice to Speak at Commencement

Rita Garman to give keynote at May 14 ceremony also honoring Rantoul mayor, Parkhills

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
***Watch it LIVE May 14 on PCTV or online.***
Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita B. Garman will deliver the keynote address during Parkland College’s 2015 Commencement Exercises, Thursday, May 14, at 8 p.m. at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana.

Garman’s distinguished career in law spans more than four decades. She was appointed to the state’s highest court in 2001 and was elected to the court in 2002. In 2013, she was chosen as the 119th Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. She had been serving on the Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District, for six years before her appointment. Garman served as a Vermilion County circuit judge from 1986 to 1995 (presiding judge from 1987 onward), and was an associate circuit judge for the prior 12 years. Garman was Vermilion County’s assistant state’s attorney from 1969 to 1973 and was engaged in private practice with Sebat, Swanson, Banks, Lessen & Garman in 1973. 

An Aurora native, Garman was valedictorian of Oswego High School in 1961. She received a BS in Economics with highest honors (Bronze Tablet) from the University of Illinois in 1965. She earned her JD degree with distinction from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1968. She is a member of the Vermilion County, Illinois State and Iowa Bar Associations, and the Illinois Judges' Association.

Other honored guests at commencement will include automotive and community leaders Bergen and Marilyn Parkhill, who will receive honorary associate degrees, and Charles Smith, mayor of the Village of Rantoul, Illinois, who will be honored with the college’s distinguished alumnus award.

The Parkhills have played a significant role in advancing Parkland College’s ability to train students for well-paying, in-demand careers in automotive technology. Their commitment to the college is reflected in the Parkhill Applied Technology Center, home of several Engineering Science and Technologies department programs. Bergen Parkhill was the longtime president of Parkhill Motor Sales (Oldsmobile/Cadillac/Mercedes-Benz) in Champaign and was president of Royal Buick, Pontiac, GMC, in Danville. He served on the Oldsmobile National Dealer Council in 1980 and 1981. Additionally, his nine years on the board of directors for the Illinois Auto Dealer Association in Springfield included service as board chair in 1997 and 1998.

Born and raised in Champaign, Bergen Parkhill graduated from Champaign High School in 1952 and earned a BA degree from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana in 1956. That same year, he married Marilyn, who hailed from Shaker Heights, Ohio, and was a 1952 graduate of Shaker Heights High School. Marilyn Parkhill went on to earn a BS degree from DePauw in 1956.

Rantoul Mayor Charles Smith took the helm of the village in 2013, having served for more than a decade as a village trustee. He directs budgetary planning and works to boost economic development for the area. An Air Force veteran, Smith was a voice of support to U.S. soldiers fighting the Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom campaigns, addressing more than 35,000 military personnel at public speaking events.

Smith earned Parkland College AAS degrees in Food Distribution and Marketing Mid-Management between 1972 and 1977. He went on to earn a BA degree from Eastern Illinois University in 2007, where he was a member of Alpha Sigma Lambda honor society. Besides his service in village government, Smith served 13 years as Senior TRICARE Community Representative and Provider Relations liaison for Health Net Federal Services, a contractor for the Department of Defense. In this role, he provided training for physicians, nurses, and office staff regarding medical claims, operational policies, and reimbursement coding procedures. He also worked as a senior account executive with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois from 1998 to 2004.

Parkland College’s commencement also will include remarks from college President Thomas Ramage, Board of Trustees Chair Dana D. Trimble, and graduating students and All-USA Academic Team nominees Jenny L. Olmsted, president of Parkland’s Phi Theta Kappa international honor society chapter, and Sarah K. Pawlicki, 2015 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Silver Scholar. Reverend Thomas Hillertz of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Champaign will provide the invocation/benediction, and the Parkland College Wind Ensemble will perform several selections.

A reception will be held in the Krannert Center lobby after the recessional. Tickets are required. 

© Parkland College
2400 West Bradley Ave | Champaign, IL 61821 | 217.351.2200 | 888.467.6065
The Mission of Parkland College is to engage the community in learning.