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Bradley University's mid-year graduating class received one message from December Commencement keynote speaker Larry King: Persevere.
The 76-year-old King kept Saturday morning's crowd laughing with tales of his run-ins with the Miami Police Department and a ninth-grade prank gone horribly awry, but his advice to the graduates was clear.
"Even though we did stupid things - and you will do stupid things, you're young - (My friends and I) made it because we had gumption and we were able to get up off our feet," King said in his address. "Never be afraid to take risks. I know you can do it."
King, or Dr. King as he may be called now, received the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during Saturday morning's Commencement Ceremony in the Exhibit Halls of the Peoria Civic Center.
Bradley President Joanne K. Glasser had these words of encouragement for the 227 students receiving undergraduate degrees from the University’s five colleges: “You are leaving our University to enter a very competitive global marketplace,” she said. “It is a world that will not give you any breaks for being unprepared. But it is also a world that will reward the hard work, discipline and dedication you demonstrated during your time on the Hilltop.”
King was joined on campus Friday for a press conference by Bradley alumnus and good friend Charley Steiner, a former ESPN anchor and the current radio play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"Getting an honorary degree, for me, is really a hoot," King said at the conference about receiving his sixth honorary certificate. He's received others from George Washington University and the Columbia School of Medicine, among other institutions. He went on to reminisce about the days he spent watching the Bradley basketball team take on the City College of New York in the finals of the NIT and the NCAA championship at Madison Square Garden in 1950.
"I have such fond memories of watching Bradley and those great stars of the past," he said. "It's nice to be here as a Brave."
Steiner and King answered questions for more than 45 minutes, giving their insights and opinions on everything from the Tiger Woods scandal to King's now famous November interview with former Miss California, Carrie Prejean.
"She said, 'Larry, that's inappropriate' - a word she had just learned," he said with a laugh. "I don't like that kind of broadcasting. Even though it's kind of exciting and titillating to people, it's not my favorite."
During the conference, one reporter asked who King would like to add to his repertoire of more than 40,000 interviews, to which King responded Fidel Castro or Osama Bin Laden.
"It doesn't matter, evil or good," King said. "To meet people who have traveled through history and had such an impact on history is a fantastic thing for a little guy from Brooklyn who can't believe all these things have happened to him."
Steiner, who graduated from Bradley in 1971 after "fashioning a major out of speech, political science and journalism," lauded the University's new Sports Communications program, praising it for capitalizing on the long list of professional broadcasters that have come out of the Peoria area. Included on that list and mentioned by Steiner were Hall of Famer Jack Brickhouse and Bradley graduates Chick Hearn and Andy Masur '89, the current radio play-by-play announcer for the San Diego Padres.
"I always say that I'm the caboose on a very important train," Steiner said. "Now, with [Sports Communication] comes a very unique major and a guidepost for colleges and universities. To be part of that, even in a tangential way is enormously gratifying.
"To be back here is enormously fun and gratifying, and to see all of this work, after so many years, finally come together is terrific."