Harold R. Wilde, North Central College’s president emeritus, has been in the news as an online author and radio guest.
His April 7 op-ed story about the unique challenges college presidents face in securing Commencement speakers was first published on zocalopublicsquare.org. It was subsequently published by Time.com and NPR, resulting in wide online distribution and an on-air interview on NPR’s “All Things Considered” weekend program Saturday, April 12, with guest host Tess Vigeland.
Procuring commencement speakers is one of many responsibilities college presidents assume, says Wilde, who served as North Central’s president from 1991 to 2012. As a procurer of commencement speakers for 22 years, Wilde shares his thoughts about the process, its significance and some strategies he developed along the way. For example, he says
• Use all your personal and family connections.
• Use every connection the institutional has, in any way you can.
• Be the first to ask them, even if they’re not well known.
• Make it easy and fun.
In his interview with NPR, Wilde gave advice for speakers—namely, “be brief”—and cited a couple of his favorite commencement picks. One was Mary Schmich, columnist for the Chicago Tribune who coauthored a 1997 column dubbed “Wear sunscreen,” which became a viral sensation. In it, she wrote what she would say as a commencement speaker. Wilde invited her to deliver that column as North Central’s 2000 commencement address and “it was wonderful,” Wilde says.