Suze Orman receives honorary degree, addresses University graduates

Personal financial analyst, Suze Orman, made her debut as a commencement speaker at the University’s campus-wide commencement ceremony, Sunday morning. Orman also went on to receive the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters during the graduation.

The two time Emmy Award-winner and best-selling author admitted to turning down many prior offers to speak at high schools or universities because of the pressure it entails.

“It’s a serious responsibility and my topic, finance, isn’t one they (graduates) are too familiar with,” Orman said. “So I’ve stayed away from commencement speeches.”

Orman left Illinois in 1973 without having fulfilled her foreign language requirements, not receiving her degree until 1976. She described the ceremony as a fulfilling experience.

“Something about being in this room, about being in the commencement about hearing the speeches, that validates the work that I did here 36 years ago,” Orman said. “It’s almost as if I feel like this is my graduation from college, so it means the world to me.”

While some students filled in the floor seats and concourse of the Assembly Hall, parents flooded the stands. Orman left many family members who said they were impressed and students inspired.

“‘When one door closes, another one opens,’” quoted Nate Shafer, graduate in LAS. “That was the main gist of her story that really stuck with me the most.”

Shafer’s aunt, Marilyn Tomaxe, said she loved the overall intent of Orman’s speech and praised her inspirational speaking skills.

“The overall message was to go out there, live your life and do it successfully,” Tomaxe said. “It’s so important for our young grads to know this in such a tough time.”

Father of an Illinois graduate, Matt Smith, shared similar views with Tomaxe. He said students need the extra push to succeed given tough economic circumstances.

“I think her words are going to make kids try harder and not take everything for granted knowing it’s a tough economy and a tough job market,” Smith said.

However, Orman doesn’t see the country’s financial status as a complete downfall for graduates. She insisted there are always possibilities during improbable times.

“Real estate is affordable again and stock market stocks are cheap again, so when you invest in your retirement accounts you’ll be able to buy more shares; more shares equals more wealth,” Orman said. “This is the year of opportunity.”

Orman also advised that graduates make the employers they depend on a paycheck for, dependent on the them instead.

“Make the people you work for love you so much that they become dependent on you and in the end you’ll be in the drivers seat,” Orman added.

She also stressed that higher education funding be lower on the President’s priority list, in order to deal with more crucial economic matters.

“The economy is so horrific right now that until we solve the bank, real estate, credit card and automobile crisis, education needs to be put on the back burner in terms of crisis mode,” Orman said. “Right now he has his hands full just for this world to continue to function.”

Orman went on to warn graduate students who chose to stay in school, in terms of how the economy effects their decision on pursuing a Masters or Ph.D.

“If you are going to grad school as a postponement of life, you are incurring more debt. I’m here to tell you will be making one of the biggest mistakes you have ever made,” she said.

As Orman reminisced on her days as a student and recalled her favorite spot to linger with friends, The Red Herring Coffee House, she left students with a last bit of advice.

“If it is your love, it is your life, then give it everything you have. It’s almost better to do nothing, than to do something you aren’t happy with.”