Class of 2021 rides off in unique style
With a few safety-driven modifications, Carthage gave the Class of 2021 a one-of-a-kind sendoff that preserved as much of the traditional graduation celebration as possible.
The vast majority of the College’s nearly 650 new graduates participated in Commencement weekend activities April 23 to 25.
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Speeches and degree conferral took place Friday night in a student-only event at the TARC Field House. Then, at assigned times Saturday and Sunday, graduates took the ceremonial stage walk as guests cheered them on.
At the Last Night celebration, which families could stream live, speakers looked back on four years of unexpected twists and turns and ahead to new adventures.
“I knew college would be something new and exciting. I just didn’t foresee just how many memories, joys, challenges, lessons, growth, and, frankly, grief there would be,” said Ella Spoelstra ’21, who spoke on behalf of the graduating class as the winner of the Distinguished Senior Award.
“And, truthfully, in some ways I feel like a freshman all over again now,” Ella continued. “I don’t know what exactly is coming next” — an unknown that she advised classmates to savor, not fear.
Chosen by graduating seniors as the faculty speaker, nursing professor Patricia Flannery urged them to stay optimistic. A reformed pessimist, she told graduates that seeing the glass half-full made her “a better person, parent, friend, nurse, faculty member, and leader.”
“Just remember that all experiences are valuable. Some are worth repeating and others deleting, but valuable nonetheless,” Prof. Flannery said. “We all have a choice every day, to go out and make a positive difference in the world or feed into the outlook of the naysayers.”
“Life would certainly be easier if we could sit back, let President Biden save our union, leave the melting glaciers to Greta Thunberg, pass the ball to LeBron James, and ask Baby Yoda to extinguish the fire,” he told the new graduates. “But, this world is in desperate need of renewal. It craves creativity, intelligence, compassion, resilience and leadership. All of those traits are in this room here today.
“Simply put: This world needs Carthage Firebirds. It needs you.”
President John Swallow noted the bond he’ll always share with this class. Most of them arrived at Carthage shortly after he did in 2017.
“Graduating seniors,” he said, “know yourself better as you age. Grow together with those you spend your life with. Collect experiences (more than things) to enrich your life. And, as you do, come back to Carthage repeatedly and tell me all about it.”
The College also presented three Distinguished Alumni Awards during the ceremony. The 2021 honorees were Tom Kieso ’73, LeAnn Pedersen Pope ’79, and Cynthia Thomas Walker ’78.
Torchie, the school mascot since 1997, received his diploma at the Last Night celebration. Carthage plans to develop a new mascot in tandem with its new team name, Firebirds.
Over the following two days, graduates and their families took turns in an extended procession leading to the red carpet in A. F. Siebert Chapel. Divided into small groups to minimize health risks, participants started in Johnson Arts Center and snaked through Hedberg Library, taking photos at designated stations and soaking in motivational video messages from faculty.
This year, the traditional Interfaith Baccalaureate service was recorded and made available for viewing on-demand. Earlier in the week, the College put on virtual celebrations for first-generation and Black graduates.
Delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, an in-person Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, May 22, in the TARC Field House.
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- Commencement Procession
- Interfaith Baccalaureate service
- First-Generation Graduates Ceremony
- Black Graduates Ceremony
- Last Night Celebration