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Speakers & Honorees

2019 Commencement Speaker

Dam Bich Thuy

Ms. Dam Bich Thuy, founding president of Fulbright University Vietnam, will provide the 2019 comm...Ms. Dam Bich Thuy, founding president of Fulbright University Vietnam, delivered the 2019 Commencement Address on May 26.

During her stay, President Thuy also gave a special presentation to graduates, their families, and the general public on Saturday, May 25.

“It is my honor to be the speaker for Carthage College’s Commencement this year. While I am eager to talk to you, I am also humble to have this invaluable opportunity to learn more from such a prestigious liberal arts college in the U.S.,” said Ms. Dam Bich Thuy (pronounced Dahm Bik Twee) in advance of her talk. “I hope that this occasion will further foster the long-term relationships between our two institutions.”

President Thuy helped establish Fulbright University Vietnam, a university that embraces the American liberal arts education approach. The school is currently refining the undergraduate program as it prepares to enroll its first students this fall for the 2019-2020 Inaugural Year.

“How to design a liberal arts university from scratch is not a question for the faint of heart. What curriculum? What pedagogy? What faculty? What facilities? What technology?” said Carthage College President John Swallow. “President Thuy, who began her education studying by candlelight in Vietnam and went on to lead an accomplished career in international business, is unusually experienced in wrestling with the far-reaching question of what education should mean for a society.

“I am thrilled that she is able to share her insights on that most important topic.”

Before assuming her current role, President Thuy spent nearly 20 years in the financial services sector, serving in in a variety of capacities. After completing her graduate studies, President Thuy joined the Australia New Zealand Bank, helping set up ANZ’s investment banking business in Asia. Ten years later, she was tapped to lead ANZ’s Vietnam operations, making her the first Vietnamese national to lead an international bank in Vietnam.

President Thuy holds degrees from the University of Hanoi and the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

Raymond Johnson ’60

Raymond Johnson '60 is the founder of The Museum of Russian Art.Successful entrepreneur, investor, conservationist, and philanthropist Raymond Johnson ’60 is the 2019 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award.

He and his wife, Susan, founded The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis. TMORA draws more than 50,000 patrons annually.

Theirs is the largest collection of Russian realist paintings outside the borders of the former Soviet Union. The private collection totals more than 15,000 pieces, which the Johnsons regularly lend to museums, universities, and cultural institutions for non-commercial exhibition and education purposes.

Raised by a single mother on an Iowa farm where calendar pages were the closest thing to artistry, Mr. Johnson wasn’t always an aficionado. An art appreciation class at Carthage initially sparked his interest.

His entrepreneurial spirit blossomed first. As a teen, Mr. Johnson made archery arrows that were sold in sporting goods stores. While serving as a Lutheran pastor, he purchased and transformed multiple funeral homes. Later, he made smart investments in real estate, oil, and manufacturing — even a company that made wooden decoys, which were sold in 75 stores he owned nationwide.

Mr. Johnson’s passion for visual works and his acumen for business led him to believe Soviet art was an underappreciated segment of the market. Beginning in the 1980s, he amassed a large collection. To share the art with a larger public, he and Susan opened TMORA — the only major institution in North America devoted entirely to Russian art and culture — in 2002.

In recognition of his contributions to international cultural diversity and education, in 2009 Mr. Johnson was awarded Russia’s Order of Friendship Medal — the highest civilian honor accorded to non-Russian citizens. His collection and TMORA are ever-evolving, expanding to photography, porcelain, printmaking, textiles, and other media.

2019 Carthage Flame Recipient

Loren H. Semler ’65

Loren Semler '65, 2019 Carthage Flame RecipientLoren H. Semler ’65, whose leadership and philanthropy have made a lasting and transformative impact on the College, is the 29th recipient of the Carthage Flame.

Mr. Semler’s Carthage experience covered two locations. He met his future wife, Vickie (Myers) Semler ’67, as a student on the campus in Carthage, Illinois, where they shared the last kiss at Kissing Rock before Mr. Semler and his Beta Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers hauled it to Kenosha.

After earning a degree in business administration, Mr. Semler returned to the Chicago area to work in the family business, Semler Industries Inc. By 1976, he became president and led the company during a robust period of expansion and innovation.

Mr. Semler became one of the longest-serving members of the Carthage Board of Trustees, dedicating nearly three decades of service. For 14 years, he served on the nominations committee, which recruited talented, service-oriented trustees. And he chaired the strategic planning committee, insisting that all stakeholders had a voice in laying the groundwork for the next generation of Carthaginians.

Passionate about student success, Mr. and Mrs. Semler created an endowed scholarship to help Carthage students through unforeseen financial challenges, and they contributed to several other scholarships. Already, their generosity has aided more than 30 students.

The couple also provided leadership and support to create the Semler Health and Fitness Center and to implement health and fitness monitoring on campus. Mr. Semler spearheaded capital campaigns that enabled the construction of the Science Center and The Tower Residence Hall.

Mrs. Semler passed away in 2016, yet the legacy that she and Mr. Semler created can be felt in all corners of campus. Two of the Semlers’ three children and two of their grandchildren also attended Carthage, bringing the extended family’s total to 21.

2019 Distinguished Senior Award

Sabiella Gomez ’19

Sabiella Gomez, 2019 Distinguished SeniorAs the 2019 Distinguished Senior Award recipient, Sabiella Gomez ’19 delivered the senior class address.

Faculty nominators referred to Sabiella as a thoughtful, optimistic, and highly intelligent student who welcomes criticism. A graphic design major and communications and sociology minor, she has made the dean’s list each semester while maintaining a 3.97 GPA.

Inducted into several national honor societies, Sabiella held executive positions as chapter president of Omicron Delta Kappa (leadership) and treasurer for Lambda Pi Eta (communication). Also treasurer of DRAFT (graphic design group), graphic designer for United Women of Color, and a past secretary of ADAPT (now the Special Olympics Club), she received a Gold Leadership Award at this year’s Celebration of Scholars.

In Nicaragua over J-Term 2019, Sabiella assisted with an ongoing water quality project while acting as the primary translator on the study tour. She continues to volunteer off-campus as a small group leader in children’s ministry and a food packer with Feed My Starving Children.

Sabiella worked on campus as a resident assistant, an assistant in the Division of Arts and Humanities, and an academic coach in the Tutoring Center. Last year, she spent eight months as a graphic design and digital marketing intern at Rauland, a division of AMETEK Inc. in Mount Prospect, Illinois.