Comprised of 373 members, the Class of 2021 was honored and celebrated before family, friends, faculty, and staff at Wittenberg Stadium atop Edwards-Maurer Field, part of the Health, Wellness & Athletics (HWA) Complex, during the 171st Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 15.
Throughout the week, students reflected on their college life, friendships, the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of community and trust in times of change, and the courage to have a voice and to be heard.
Adhering to health and safety guidance from the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), graduates in the Class of 2021 were divided by majors with group one consisting of sciences and education majors participating from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and group two featuring humanities and arts majors from 3 to 4:30 p.m.
Following each ceremony, graduates recessed to Commencement Hollow for diploma retrieval and grab-and-go-style snacks. All guests were required to wear masks and stay six feet apart at all times, and hand sanitizing stations were available.
The following masters and majors comprised group one: MA coaching, MA education, MS analytics, biology, environmental science, biochemistry/molecular biology, chemistry, physics, nursing, exercise science, sport management, math, computer science, education/educational studies, and psychology.
Group two included all majors in art, communication/digital media, accounting, entrepreneurship, finance, management, marketing, dance, East Asian studies, economics, English, French, German, Spanish, history, international studies, music, organizational leadership, philosophy, political science, religion, sociology, self-designed, and theatre.
Wittenberg President Michael L. Frandsen led the Commencement ceremony for each group, congratulating the class of 2021 in his opening remarks and asking the graduates to reflect on their time at the University.
“The past year has certainly presented new challenges for all of us – challenges that changed rapidly and, at times, daily. The class of 2021 is among a special group of determined graduates – graduates that learned to shift quickly and adjust to new tests and circumstances,” he said.
Frandsen then went on to remind graduates of the acronym he shared when they first arrived on campus in 2017 – the same year he began as Wittenberg’s 15th president. The acronym was ABLE, which stands for Attitude, Balance, Light, and Experiment. In his remarks, Frandsen went on to elaborate on each, encouraging all those present to start each day with a good attitude, find balance in their Wittenberg journey, discover their own distinct light and be willing to pass it on as the beloved University motto directs, and experiment by leaving their comfort zones.
“Fast forward to now and not only did you actualize the word ABLE as reflected in your exceptional achievements, you inspired others to follow your lead,” Frandsen said. “Take pride today in knowing that you navigated uncertainty and faced challenges head on to persevere and shine your light.”
Senior Class President Charlotte Hurst also addressed her classmates during both sessions. Hurst, from Athens, Ohio, is a Spanish and international studies double major.
“In our time together, we have watched this campus and community change immensely over the past four years,” she said. “We have had to have serious and challenging conversations about the health of our world and our loved ones, and grapple with the number of precious lives that have been lost. We missed out on saying goodbye to our friends who graduated last year, our roommates, and our professors. We wondered if returning to campus was an option. We had to re-learn how to interact with one another…We learned how to interact with our professors and fellow students online, through a hybrid format, and in this new type of face-to-face interaction.”
Hurst also encouraged the class to push themselves to understand the world better and “the seats of privilege we sit in, and how being apathetic toward injustice is no way to live.” Additionally, she urged the class to hold on to the things that matter.
“Hold on to the beauty of the Hollow at the start of spring, the way that the tulips bloom and how the Adirondack chairs always seem to be perfectly placed. Hold on to the ideals that Wittenberg heralds, be a global citizen, dedicate your life to service, and strive to live a life fulfilled by your vocation. Although a tad cliché, I urge you all to also both simultaneously hold on and let go of the light you have gained here. Let your light illuminate rooms and pathways for yourself and others from here on out, but also hold on to the fact that you must always add more oil to your torch – never stop learning. Hold on to one another and every memory that you can. I can’t wait to see what you all do for this world.”
Janet Jackson, Wittenberg class of 1975 and member of the Wittenberg Board of Directors, congratulated the students and offered brief remarks during both sessions. And on a special note, she also posed for pictures with her grandson, Kristiaan Alexander Thompson, class of 2021 from Gahanna, Ohio, who received a degree in sport management.
“Wittenberg is an exceptional institution firmly rooted in a mission that speaks to helping you discover your respective callings, being responsible global citizens, and going on from here to lead personal, professional, and civic lives of creativity, service, compassion, and integrity,” Jackson said. “My own Wittenberg experience shaped the way I understand my vocation and continues to inform the ways that I engage the world. Wittenberg changed my life, and I believe it has forever changed yours, so today we celebrate with you – the distinguished class of 2021. Your accomplishments already inspire us, and we are confident that you will leave here fully prepared to make you own unique mark in every passion you pursue. Wherever you shine, that’s where Witt goes in the world.”
The conferring of degrees then followed. A total of 125 graduates earned Latin honors in recognition of their exceptional academic pursuits, including 53 graduating summa cum laude, 21 graduating magna cum laude, and 51 cum laude.
One other special moment during the ceremony, included seeing Kristine Joseph, the mother of senior Alexandra Joseph, of Columbus, Ohio, accompany her daughter at the Wittenberg procession. Kristine was set to graduate from Loyola University on the same day and opted to walk with her daughter here at Wittenberg. She received her continuing education certificate in religious studies and was announced at Wittenberg’s Commencement; her daughter received a degree in entrepreneurship.
Lastly, the graduates were welcomed into Wittenberg’s vibrant alumni community by Jenn Ramage, class of 2000 and president of the Wittenberg University Alumni Association.
“I am thankful every day that I had the opportunity to attend Wittenberg,” she said. “Incredible friendships are one of my favorite outcomes, as I now find myself with opportunities to travel the world to reminisce and create new memories with Wittenberg Tigers. One wise Tiger once said, ‘Everyone has their story, but not everyone is lucky enough to have a Wittenberg story.’ Over 26,000 individuals are proud to have a Wittenberg story, and you’re joining an alumni base that not only pursues its passion but also lives our motto of, ‘Having Light We Pass it On to Others.’ As you venture all over the world, I encourage you to stay connected to Wittenberg – on-campus, in your local area, through Wittenberg friendships, and more. The bond of the Wittenberg experience truly transcends class years.”
The class included students from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Washington, D.C., as well as international students from Canada and Japan.
Degrees awarded included bachelor of arts, bachelor of fine arts, bachelor of music education, bachelor of science, bachelor of science in nursing, master of arts in education, master of science in analytics, and masters of arts in athletic coaching.
The event was streamed live, a recording of which will be available online. For that link and additional Commencement information, click here. Special coverage can also be found on Twitter at #StompTheSeal. More photos to come!