This year’s graduating class at Monmouth College did something over the weekend that hasn’t been done by students in three years: they got to walk across the stage for commencement.
“At the conclusion of their freshman year, some members of the Monmouth College Class of 2021 saw that school year’s seniors walk across the Wallace Hall stage and receive their diplomas,” said the college in a news release. “Those freshmen didn’t know it at the time, but the Class of 2018’s commencement ceremony would be the college’s last on the Wallace Hall Plaza for a full three years.”
Abigail Bourscheidt, of Peoria, was one of 189 members of the Class of 2021 who proudly strode across the stage to receive their Monmouth College diploma from President Clarence R. Wyatt during the one-hour ceremony.
“This was something I spoke loudly about at the first senior meeting we had. I’m very excited we were able to do it,” said Bourscheidt. “Four years go by fast.”
A total of 208 degrees were awarded at the college’s 164th Commencement Ceremony, which was seen by a crowd of about 1,100 people.
Graduates like Zach Harris, of Mascoutah, Ill., said the outdoor ceremony was “much-needed.”
“This was much-needed after a year like this,” said Harris. “It was awesome to see all my classmates walk across the stage. I couldn’t help but keep smiling.”
Multiple students in attendance weren’t strangers to the stage.
In fact, four years ago, some of the Class of 2021 participated in a high school graduation ceremony on Monmouth College’s campus.
Hannah McVey was one of them and says she was happy to be able to walk across the stage again for her college graduation ceremony.
“This was definitely super special,” said McVey. “A lot of my family graduated from Monmouth, and I’m glad I was able to walk across the stage like they have in the past.”
Monmouth College’s president was also excited for the turnout of this year’s event.
“This is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in some time,” said Wyatt in his welcoming remarks during Sunday’s ceremony. “This is what it’s all about.”
While this year’s ceremony seemed more normal than last year’s, signs of the pandemic were still evident.
For example, pre-recorded singing by the Monmouth Chorale, no recessional through a line of Monmouth faculty and the absence of a keynote speaker.
However, tradition carried on through the words of Joe Doner, this year’s Student Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois.
Doner, a resident of Arlington Heights, Ill., spoke to his classmates about the passing of the torch that is part of the Monmouth tradition, as well as traditions that were derailed when the pandemic hit during the second half of the Class of 2021’s junior year.
“Each and every one of us endured a thousand obstacles,” said Doner. “Every lost ID card, every failed test, every Zoom class that we thought would never end, every Monmouth tradition that was canceled these past 14 months, every meal we had to pick up from the cafeteria and eat elsewhere — every barrier overcome served not only as a widening of our own character and competence, but the widening of Monmouth’s as well.”
Doner added completing that difficult journey has set the Class of 2021 up well for the journeys that lie ahead.
“I am honored to have been able to speak to you all today,” said Doner. “Your examples of perseverance have pushed me to persevere, the courage I’ve observed in you has increased my courage and your dedication to success will forever prod me to seek success. I look forward to walking into the blazing sunlight of our futures together.”
The ceremony concluded with Dean of the Faculty Mark Willhardt offering one final piece of instruction to the Class of 2021: the correct way to hold a streamer before launching it skyward.
According to the college, the “red and white explosion” of the streamers “capped a successful, feel-good event for the graduates and their families and friends.”
Director of Campus Events Ryan Doyle was pleased by this year’s commencement ceremony turnout and also enjoyed the streamers.
“It was excellent,” said Doyle. “The weather was great, and last night’s Senior Sendoff went off without a hitch. It really all went perfectly, and the streamers at the end was a great idea.”
The following 13 students from the Class of 2021 graduated summa cum laude:
- Mamie Ambrosch, Metamora, Ill.
- Kensey Arlt, Wichita, Kan.
- Savannah Ball, East Peoria, Ill.;
- Seth Croslow, Lawrenceville, Ill.
- Megan Davis, Chandler, Ariz.
- Seth Foster, Palmer, Ill.
- Will Fox, Hamilton, Ill.
- Gavin Gard, Danville, Ill.
- Cynthia Ladner, Galesburg
- Ashlyn Maher, Brimfield, Ill.
- Kieran Marshall, Melbourne, Australia
- Renee Rude, Washington, Ill.
- Julia Sterr, Clinton, Ill.
Faculty promotions were also announced during the ceremony.
Promoted to full professor were Tim Pahel (music) and Brad Sturgeon (music).
Receiving tenure and promotions to associate professor were Stephanie Baugh (art), Vanessa Campagna (theatre), Michael Nelson (political science) and Michael Prinsell (chemistry).
Also announced were recipients of two of the college’s three Hatch Awards for Academic Excellence. Tim Tibbetts received the Hatch Award for service, while the Hatch Award for scholarship was shared by Francisco Angeles and Janis Wunderlich.
The college also recognized four faculty members who retired at the end of the academic year: Ken Cramer (28 years in biology), Farhat Haq (34 years in political science), Judi Kessler (20 years in sociology) and Carolyn Suda (35 years in music).