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University of Illinois Graduates Largest Class Yet

University of Illinois graduated its 150th Saturday morning at Memorial Stadium. (WCCU/WICS)

University of Illinois graduated its 150th Saturday morning at Memorial Stadium.

Commencement planners say this is the biggest class they’ve had to date and estimate over 20,000 attended the ceremony Saturday.

As of mid-week, the U of I commencement office had given out over 33,000 thousand graduation tickets. That's almost 10,000 more than by that point a year ago.

"We opened more of the stadium up, and there are more seats on the field for graduates,” U of I Special Events Laura Wilhelm-Barr said. “Just everything from ordering more programs, to additional parking, so lots of different areas need to be expanded when we have this size of crowd."

This year's ceremony featured commencement speaker Nick Offerman, an actor who graduated from U of I in 1993.

"I endured two brief stents in the Urbana Jail for some minor, ill advised Tomfoolery,” Offerman said in his speech. “And somehow still managed to be invited to speak to you here today,"

For some, U of I’ orange and blue runs in the blood. Some of those alumni got to see their own sons and daughters graduate at their alma mater's biggest graduation ceremony to date.

Helen Melnick, U of I Alumni

"I am mom, it's a very proud moment for us and our whole family, " U of I alumni Helen Melnick said. "There's nothing like it. Orange and blue, we bleed it."

Her son, Jake Melnick, who graduated today says he’s proud to pass on the tradition, but is ready to move on to the next chapter of his life.

"I though I'd feel a little more emotion when I graduate, but right now it's just kind of a relief,” graduate Jake Melnick said. “This is kind of a stressful week, you've got parents coming in, you have a lot of family that's excited for you, but it's kind of a relief it's coming to an end."

Although these last few years have been filled with studying for tests, Offerman tells the graduates that it's O.K. not to have all the answers.

"We're all in this stadium human beings, all of us,” Offerman said. “Which means we're flawed by definition. The realization of this truth is a great, freeing baseline for the musical of your life's pursuit."

Saturdays ceremony at Memorial Statium was the University’s main ceremony, but about 40 schools within the schools have their own ceremonies this weekend. The last ceremony is scheduled around 7 p.m. Sunday.

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