MORRIS – Karie Smith, the keynote speaker at Morris Community High School’s 31st annual Honors Recognition Night, congratulated the honorees on their academic achievements.
“Being recognized at honors night is a testament to your commitment and hard work and bears witness to your ability to achieve great things,” Smith told the students gathered. “I hope you take a moment to pat yourself on the back and celebrate what you’ve achieved this year and especially for the seniors, over your high school career.”
Honors night recognized nearly 200 students from all four grade levels. The program was held in the school’s gym and guests were treated to appetizers prepared by the school’s food class.
Senior, Morgan Hussey has been a honoree all four of her high school years. She is the last of principal Kelly Hussey’s children to graduate Morris Community High School.
“I’ve been looking forward to senior year. It’s weird how it kind of snuck up on me,” she said. “I don’t try to do better for my dad, but more for myself. I like to strive to be the best that I can be, and if I know I did my best, I’m pleased with that.”
Smith graduated Morris Community High School in 1993 and attended University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she studied accounting and graduated with a perfect GPA and highest honors and was a Bronze Tablet recipient.
According to her biography, Smith began her career with PricewaterhouseCoopers and specialized in taking high tech start-ups public during the Internet IPO frenzy of the late 1990s. She was a national expert in accounting for complex equity instruments used by these early stage companies to finance their growth and authored and taught several courses across the country on the subject. She received the second highest score in the state of Illinois when taking the CPA exam, earning her the Silver Medal.
In 2003 Smith joined Exelon Corporation, when promoted to vice president, Smith was the youngest executive in the company.
“I loved growing up here and attending this high school – I could not be prouder to call Morris my hometown,” Smith said. “I was born in the Morris Hospital and grew up in Hatcher Woods, spending my summers at the pool there.”
She told them the last time she gave a speech in the gym was as Valedictorian over 20 years ago. She said the speech focused on how the support and dedication of their families had inspired her graduating class to accomplish remarkable things.
She said she thought about giving the same speech at this event but instead chose to honor David Letterman’s upcoming retirement and offer a top ten list of her own, a top ten list of lesson’s she’s learned since high school on achieving success.
Starting at number 10 and working her way to number one she told the honorees to dare to be great; all your decisions matter – life starts now; quality, quality, quality; it’s okay to have self-doubt; stretching yourself to the point of failure will yield some of life’s most meaningful learning opportunities; act with honor; it is a competitive advantage coming from Morris Community High School; be patient and be authentic.
“No. 1, this last lesson I’ve learned most recently with my husband, Allen by my side,” she said. “Even if you diligently follow through on all the other lessons I talked about, you dare to be great, you make good decisions, you stretch yourself to the point of failure, you are humble but relentless about achieving success, you act with integrity, even if you do all of these things and do them well, you still may not be able to get a new baby to sleep at night.
“This lesson I have learned in the most recent chapter of my life and I am hopeful, that in the not too distant future, I will become qualified to make a top ten list on getting a baby to sleep.
Each honors student walked before their peers and was given a certificate by the administrators, starting with the seniors.
In his introduction, Superintendent Pat Halloran said this group is a successful hard working group of students.
“You have what it takes to be a success,” Halloran said. “The people around you are proud of you.”