After spending years of hard work and dedicating themselves to their undergraduate study, the students of Valparaiso University celebrated the end of the long road to graduation Sunday afternoon.
The commencement ceremony took place in the Valparaiso University Athletics Recreation Center. Hundreds of graduates, friends, and family filled the stadium to celebrate what years of hard work had earned.
The ceremony began with an impressive processional from each corner of the room. Graduates were led by proud faculty members, each carrying one of the ceremonial flags. Graduates streamed in from all sides, waving at family and friends as they proceeded to their seats in the center of the room.
After a short speech congratulating the students, the President of Valparaiso University, Mark A. Heckler, introduced the undergraduate commencement speaker to address the graduates. Ambassador Ken Hackett, US Ambassador to the Holy See, briefly took the stage to offer advice and words of wisdom to the graduating class of 2017.
“Be bold. Be bold and be brave,” Ambassador Hackett said. You’re not going to make a difference if you are not prepared to commit yourself and be brave.”
After a few more speakers addressed the graduates and crowded stadium, those students graduating with honors or special designation were asked to stand and receive recognition for their accomplishments. A moment was also taken to recognize those who have served in the military.
After these special recognitions, graduates again rose in sections, this time representing their field of study, and were bestowed their degrees. Each row of students walked across the stage to receive their diploma. The relief and excitement was apparent as many waved to families or raised the diploma in the air as they exited the stage. They celebrated their accomplishment openly as they prepared for the next chapter in their life.
After every student had crossed the stage, they were asked to stand and move their tassels to signify the completion of their degrees. Cheers could be heard as the group of students proudly did so, excited to have finally finished what they had worked so hard for.
“I’ll be legitimately recognized instead of just going into the background,” said Keelun Lawrence, who graduated with is Bachelor of the Arts in Psychology. “Theres a title to it and I’m able to have official recognition now.”
Once the ceremony ended, the graduates streamed out into the surrounding areas for photos, hugs, and many congratulations. The Victory Bell, a Valparaiso University tradition, could be heard ringing as graduates made their way to it for pictures.
“I survived,” Said Ben Oelschlager, who received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. “Getting an engineering degree is tough, and having some health issues along the way and still getting through it all in four years was really big. The professors definitely care a lot.”
As new graduates celebrated with the people who helped and supported them over the years, hope, pride, and excitement was apparent as each of these students looked forward to the next stage of their journey.
Congratulations to the Class of 2017!
For more information about Valparaiso University, visit www.valpo.edu.