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William "Nishal" Weems and President Andrea Talentino
President Andrea Talentino presents a certificate of merit and medallion to Lincoln Academy student laureate William "Nishal" Weems.

William "Nishal" Weems named 2022 student laureate

William “Nishal” Weems, an Augustana College senior from Carpentersville, Ill., was selected as a student laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. 

Each fall, a senior from each of the state’s four-year colleges and universities and one student from the community colleges in Illinois are awarded the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award, becoming student laureates. This is the Lincoln Academy's 48th year celebrating student excellence in Illinois.

In the spirit of Lincoln, student laureates are honored for their "leadership and service in the pursuit of the betterment of humanity and for overall excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities."

Augustana College President Andrea Talentino selected Weems, a history major, for this honor after a nomination from Dr. Monica M. Smith, the college’s vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. 

President Talentino said she was impressed by Weems’ work to develop a peer mentor program for his fellow Black male students and his passion for supporting and affirming his peers.  

“He is driven in this work by the guidance and direction he has received in pursuing his own higher education, which has also helped him push the boundaries of what he believes he can achieve,” President Talentino said. “He sees it as his purpose to share what he's gained with others, and that sense of conviction and mission makes him an effective leader."

Student laureates received a letter and certificate of merit signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Lincoln medallion, a challenge coin and a $500 check from The Lincoln Academy.  

Historically, student laureates are honored every fall at The Old State Capitol Building in Springfield. The in-person event did not take place this year due to construction at the site. Student laureates were instead honored in a pre-recorded program. The video, which includes a congratulatory note from Gov. Pritzker, the president of the Lincoln Academy, is available at

The video also includes comments from four laureates of The Lincoln Academy who speak on the four recognized pillars of Abraham Lincoln’s leadership: integrity, courage, honesty and empathy.


Nicole Lauer, 309-794-7645.

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