Anna Bond has watched commencements before, but never from such a good vantage point.
Her seat next to the stage during Transylvania University’s graduation ceremony on Saturday allowed her to really share the moment with her classmates—and be heard cheering them on. “I got to sit in the front row, which is really cool,” she said.
The graduates crossed the stage in front of the university’s iconic Old Morrison administration building to receive their Bachelor of Arts degrees, while from the lawn on this pleasant May morning, family and friends celebrated their many accomplishments.
The day started with a Commencement Day Breakfast for the 229 graduating students in the Rafskeller followed by the traditional class photo on the Beck Center steps. (A possibility of thunderstorms had been in the forecast, so a second commencement stage was ready to go in the Beck Center’s main gym—just in case.)
A little before 9 a.m. behind Old Morrison, high-fives were in order as the seniors on their way to the ceremony walked through two rows of faculty. “Just to see all the students pass between the faculty is a really great metaphor for the experience that we’ve all had together,” said Gary Deaton, a writing, rhetoric and communication instructor and director of forensics.
Senior Presli Neal, a first-generation college student and neuroscience major, then offered her classmates further inspiration during her student commencement speech. “Transylvania, in true liberal arts fashion, has provided us a set of skills to question the world around us, to think deeply about who we are and how we can impact others,” she said. “And, Class of 2019, I am positive that no matter what you do, you will greatly impact the world around you and will continue to treat others with kindness and love.”
Next, graduates heard from Deogratias “Deo” Niyizonkiza, a leading advocate for the world’s most impoverished people and founder and CEO of Village Health Works in Burundi. His commencement address capped off an academic year focused on the theme of civility. “Choose civility—choose to be citizens who are not just out to make a living but who are living to make a difference,” he said.
After the ceremony, Alumni Plaza was a jubilant scene with well-wishers and new grads, including Samara Lyons. “It feels amazing,” she said. “I’m really glad to be part of the Transylvania community, and I’m just really proud that I was able to receive my degree.”
Also at the Alumni Welcome Reception were a lot of proud parents. Anna Bond’s mother, Mary, said her daughter had worked really hard, and “she has had the best professors and the best opportunities for studying abroad and internships. It’s been a dream school.”