Members of Wittenberg’s Class of 2020 were thrilled to finally have a Commencement ceremony in-person on the University’s beautiful campus.
Approximately 100 members of the 392 who graduated in 2020 celebrated before family, friends, faculty, and staff at Wittenberg Stadium atop Edwards-Maurer Field, part of the Health, Wellness & Athletics (HWA) Complex, during the 170th Commencement exercises on Sunday, May 16. The COVID-19 pandemic moved the class’ original ceremony to an entirely virtual experience in May 2020.
Wittenberg President Michael L. Frandsen led the Commencement ceremony, congratulating the class of 2020 in his opening remarks and asking the graduates to rise and thank their families, Wittenberg’s staff and faculty, and each other.
“We are here in-person, and we are excited to celebrate with you on campus after a year-long wait,” he said. “The past year has certainly presented new challenges for all of us. Challenges that changed rapidly and, at times, daily. You, as a class, will always hold a special place in our hearts as you remind us of the power of resilience, patience, flexibility, and determination. You have inspired us and made us proud, and this Commencement especially is one that offers us an opportunity to give thanks, in our own ways, to each of you for embracing our light and making it shine.”
Frandsen went on to encourage the class to “take pride today in knowing that you navigated uncertainty and faced challenges head on to persevere and lead with your light. You are already making your mark in the world, and I have every confidence that you will continue to lead personal, professional, and civic lives of creativity, service, compassion, and integrity. You are Wittenberg Tigers and always will be.”
Student Body President Vanessa Orduna Zarazua also addressed her classmates. Zarazua, from Columbus, Ohio, earned a degree in political science with minors in international studies and business. President of Student Senate, she was a member of the Union Board, Gamma Phi Beta, and mock trial, and served as an orientation assistant, student center manager, and a political science office assistant during her time at Wittenberg. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in public and global health this fall.
“It is an honor to finally be here to celebrate and acknowledge the hard work and commitment our class made throughout the past five years. And yes, I do mean five years because let’s be honest, even though we received our diplomas last year, it isn’t until today that it actually feels like we did the dang thing,” she said.
“We all experienced the year 2020! March marked one year since the beginning of the coronavirus, one of the most excruciating events of our lifetime. It goes without saying that the past 12-plus months presented many challenges, change, and a new normal for everyone across the world. Life has been changed as we know it,” Zarazua said.
“Before the pandemic, we seniors found ourselves with mixed emotions. From excitement that our graduation day was nearing, to fear and uncertainty of what was ahead,” she continued. “As we look to the rest of our lives, we continue to exhibit the lessons we learned at Witt. Part of our light has been resilience in the face of adversity and never-ending change. We graduated during a difficult time for the world, which exacerbated the difficulty of finding jobs in an already competitive world. It is in times of adversity that we are reminded to celebrate the little accomplishments, push ourselves to adapt to change, and be thankful for what we take for granted.”
Janet Jackson, Wittenberg class of 1975 and member of the Wittenberg Board of Directors, congratulated the students and offered brief remarks.
“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. On a special note, Alyssa Stout, of Delaware, Ohio, who received her degree in political science, also accepted a posthumous degree in honor of her sister, Randi Stout.
Brian Yontz, associate professor of education and chair of the department, greeted his two cousins Taylor Yontz, from Springfield, Ohio, who earned a degree in mathematics, and Rachel Yontz Storey, also of Springfield, Ohio, who earned a master’s degree in education.
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 Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., as well as international students from the Cayman Islands, Japan, and Vietnam.
Degrees awarded included a 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 shortly. For that link and additional Commencement information, click here. Special coverage can also be found on Twitter at #StompTheSeal.