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Meet the man who's ushered thousands of St. Ambrose grads across the stage

Clinical Assistant Professor of Communication Alan Sivell has read students' names at graduation since 2009.

MOLINE, Ill. — Saturday marked a day of celebration for the St. Ambrose University Class of 2022. Nearly 200 students graduated on May 21 at the TaxSlayer Center, in addition to 130 Master's students and 39 Doctorate students.

One of the masters of ceremonies was Alan Sivell. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Communication and has read the names of graduating students since 2009.

"I've done about 24 graduations, read 10-12,000 names," Sivell said. "Only, by my calculation, made about five mistakes. But maybe it's 10."

Being involved in the ceremony makes it more fun for him, he said. Sivell takes his duties very seriously. He gets the list of names on the Monday before the ceremony and spends the next several days practicing. In the half-hour leading up to the ceremony, you can find Sivell on the stage going over his notes on his phone.

"I go through all the names and all the ones that I don't think I can pronounce or that people don't phonetically spell right, I email them and tell them to leave an answer on my machine so I can hear it," he said. "I say it fast, you know, five or six or seven times so I can instantly look at the name and know how to say it."

Sivell has been teaching at St. Ambrose for 36 years. He previously was a reporter at News 8 in the 1980s.

"I was a mediocre reporter. I'd like to think I'm a pretty darn good teacher. I never thought that that's the way it would go," he said. "I loved being in the classroom, seeing students get it. I get so much more satisfaction with them writing me five years, 10 years down the road saying what you taught me or what you told me was right."

Now 71-years-old, Sivell is retiring from teaching. But he said he's not done learning yet and hopes his students and the Class of 2022 aren't either.

"Think and read multiple sources and listen to all viewpoints. Things aren't black and white, up or down," Sivell said. "So keep on learning for the rest of your life. I mean, I'm 71 and I'm so excited to read some more, learn some stuff. My only regret is that I may not learn everything there is to know by the time my time is up, but I'm going to try."

During retirement, he said he's going to keep reading, writing, and telling stories. But his time as the name reader might not be over yet.

"The President while I was putting my gown on said, 'You know, you do such a great job. Would you mind coming back and doing it?'" Sivell said. "I thought, sure. So I may not be gone."

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