William “Nishal” Weems, an Augustana College senior from Carpentersville, Ill., is a new 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.

This is the Lincoln Academy of Illinois’ 48th year of celebrating student excellence.

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

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

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,” 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 online HERE.

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

Other Lincoln Academy laureates in the region include:

  • Kayla Marina Hope, Knox College
  • Addison Rae Cox, Monmouth College
  • Thalia L. Mercado, Western Illinois University

In addition to honoring the state’s Student Laureates, Illinois is unique in the U.S. in choosing present or former citizens who have made outstanding contributions toward the progress and betterment of humanity to be honored as Laureates of the Lincoln Academy and receive the “Order of Lincoln” from the Governor, a process that has been in place since 1964.

For more information, visit the Lincoln Academy website.