Jill Jensen Chadwick, MA, graduated from Graceland in 1981. 40 years later, she returned to Graceland as the fall 2021 commencement speaker. For Jill, the return to Graceland was more an expression of love than it was hoping to impart wisdom.
“You never forget your first crush and for me, that happened in high school when I participated in Spectacular,” Chadwick said. “I’m not talking about a boy crush. I was enamored by the energy of the bustling campus filled with a diverse mix of people and personalities brought together by the unity of friendly competition. In that environment, I thrived.”
She found herself excited to meet people from different states and countries while forging lifelong friendships. “At that moment, Graceland represented the promise of unlimited opportunities,” she remembers.
During her time on “the Hill” as a theatre major, professors like Winston Inslee and Celia Schall helped nurture Chadwick – a natural extrovert – as she realized the value and joy of working behind the scenes. “My experiences [with Inslee and Schall] have helped me in my professional path,” she said.
Chadwick currently serves as the Director of Media Relations and the Medical News Network at The University of Kansas Health System. After graduating from Graceland in 1981 with a major in Theatre/Speech, she received her Master of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of Missouri – Kansas City. She then worked in broadcast journalism for 27 years as an evening anchor, reporter, news director and executive producer of investigative in St. Joseph, Joplin, Springfield, and Kansas City.
In her commencement address, she said that she hoped graduates heard two main themes. First, Graceland is the foundation of whatever future they decide to build. It’s a solid education with a strong reputation and the friendships they’ve made can be a life-long support system. Second, it’s okay to fail or make mistakes and those growth opportunities are the classroom of their future. “There are no papers to hand in or grades to measure the next progression in their careers,” she says, “just mistakes and opportunities to do better.”
“It’s easier to look back and ponder the benefits of Graceland on my life and career than realize them at the moment,” Chadwick said.
“Was it my chosen degree that helped me navigate life? My father worried about my future with a theatre degree. I remember telling him it was the best degree ever as I could ‘play whatever part’ I was cast. Was it the network of friends who supported me during the tough times? Was it helpful life hacks that many mentors and faculty provided like Dennis Steele who said, ‘Do your homework every weeknight so you can play on the weekends?’ All of these things have influenced my success and ability to overcome. At the heart of it, remains ‘my crush’. When you love something as much I love my alma mater, it gives you strong roots to withstand life’s storms and thrive.” – Jill Jensen Chadwick ’81
Chadwick’s story helps Graceland kick off #Grateful4Graceland Day of Giving. When asked why she was #Grateful4Graceland, she said, “I am grateful for the feeling of home every time I return to the campus at Graceland. No matter how long I’ve been away or the advances in facilities or curriculum, the campus still feels like I am coming home and that’s a wonderful feeling. Home is where your heart is and where most of us learn how to become a contributing adult. I will always feel like Graceland is a home away from home and graduates a part of my extended family.”
Graceland Announces Dr. Matthew Naylor as Spring Commencement Speaker
April 20, 2022
Dr. Matthew Naylor, PhD, will address Graceland’s Spring 2022 graduates at its commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 1 in Lamoni, Iowa. Naylor is the President and CEO of the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City,
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