Rain and cold moved the 2017 University of St. Thomas undergraduate commencement indoors, but did nothing to dampen the festive spirit of the year's biggest day on campus. More than 1,300 students graduated on Saturday morning, each of their walks across the stage the culmination of their own unique experience.
The Newsroom was on hand to talk with graduating students, proud parents, faculty and staff about what it felt like for the big day to finally arrive.
"I'm just excited. Very excited. It's great to see everyone go through the triumphs and struggles, the ups and downs of college, and all make it through to today."
- Hayden Reich, graduate
"This is all super exciting. I brought champagne, so I'm not sure yet where we're going to pop this! It's a weird feeling finally being done. I'm going to be an actuary starting in June, so it's been a nice stress reliever having that lined up." - Alex Haag, graduate
"It's a big moment! I'm the youngest kids so I'm the last to graduate. I just hope I don't trip! That's the goal of the day. It's sad, though, too. I was sitting in the library the other day and looking at campus, and it's hard to think I won't be here any more."
- Jessica Menden, graduate
"Wow. I can't put into words how good it feels to get her here. We're so appreciative of everything St. Thomas has done for her."
- Susan Peterson, mother of graduate Bekka Peterson
"This is huge for me. I'm a (Air Force) veteran and took my first college class 15 years ago. ... I came to St. Thomas in the fall of 2014 and it was the best decision I ever made. I'm the first family member on either side of my family to get a four-year degree. ... I finished in December so I have the diploma on the wall, but it wasn't complete until I walked across that stage."
- Michael Wimperis, graduate
"I love watching their faces and seeing the maturity that's grown. We've often seen these kids when they first come in to declare their major ... and the change in them over four years is amazing."
- Amy Muse, English department chair
"It's exciting, but sucks. How have I been here for four years already? I feel like I just moved into my freshman dorm room yesterday."
- Kate Spangenberg, graduate
- Claire Spangenberg, graduate
"It's been really exciting, but it hasn't sunk in until just now as we're ready to walk. ... It's overwhelming, and there's so much that comes next."
- Brooke Finch, graduate
"It's mixed feelings. We're happy and proud, but we're leaving! Starting next week we won't have all of our best friends all living within a few blocks."
- Jose Munne Caceres, graduate
"This is my favorite day of the year, no matter what the weather. ... Please continue to remember to wear purple on Tuesdays. Go, Tommies!"
- President Julie Sullivan
"It's unreal. Four years went by so fast. There are so many smiles today, so many excited people."
- Mayzer Muhammad, graduate
"It's incredible. To be part of this is really a privilege."
- David White, M.B.A. admission staff
"I feel awesome. It's a great accomplishment. ... I'm excited, and more than a little proud."
- Grace Sinisalo, graduate
"It's a nice accumulation of four years. It's a great celebration. ... Having it inside really captures the emotion. It's a nice, relaxed event before we head out into the world."
- Jack Lund, graduate
"These are often great milestones, and in a sense there's great gratitude. ... These are great achievements by these students, but they're actually the achievements of many people around them, too."
- Michael Naughton, Director of Center for Catholic Studies and father to graduate Mary Naughton
"It's all just right there! I'm basically a deer in the headlights today. ... It's going to be fun."
- Ben Dahl-McGlone, graduate
"It's really exciting! I transferred (from the University of Minnesota), so it's great to have all this come together after four years."
- Jenny Stierns, graduate
"It won't soak in until fall rolls around that we're not coming back here. ... I've developed so many great relationships here."
- Thomas Gorrilla, graduate
"We're proud. We're finally here. This is our only daughter, so this is a big day."
- Heidi Thom, parent of graduate Anna Thom
"Ridiculous! It hasn't really hit me yet. Next week will be when I realize and feel that all these people that I've seen every day here will be all over the world."
- Hanna Tilstra, graduate
"I'm excited, and glad to be done. I've had enough mid-terms, finals and papers for a while. It's a sense of freedom, but also now the pressure to go out and work hard."
- Jim Hogan, graduate
"I'm relieved. I'm an engineering major so it's been a lot of hard work here! It's bittersweet."
- Gabriel Meza, graduate
"We're pretty honored. Megan is our oldest; she's done an amazing thing."
- Lisa Herdering, mother of graduate Megan Herdering
"I'm just super excited and proud to be done. Also, I got a job in December so that's been a great relief to have that taken care of."
- Maija Clausen, graduate
"It's kind of surreal that four years have gone. I wouldn't say I'm nervous, but it's hard to explain (what I'm feeling.)"
- Brett Gunderson, graduate
"I volunteer because of the energy of the day. ... The grads have worked so hard to get here."
- Kelsie Edwards, financial aid staff
"There are definitely mixed emotions. I'm excited for what's next but sad to move away."
- Emily Holscher, graduate
"It's bittersweet. It's been a big journey and I've met a lot of great friends here. I'll miss them and all the memories I've made here."
- Spencer Flaten, graduate
"It's amazing. Megan has worked really hard. My wife and I are extremely proud. She's going to law school next year, so even better!"
- Tony Speltz, father of graduate Megan Speltz
"It feels great to look around and see the faces I've gotten to know over the last four years. I'm excited."
- Tony Hren, graduate
"She's the youngest, so last to graduate. I'm so excited for her and her future. She's had the most incredible experience here at St. Thomas. ... It's an honor to be here today to see her."
- Liz Brothers, mother of graduate Melanie Brothers
"I just don't know how to feel. It's kind of surreal. I still have eight credits to go this summer ... so it hasn't fully hit yet, and it probably won't until further down the road."
- Austin Luecke, graduate
"It's just incredibly exciting. There's a positive energy on campus, and it's always an honor to send off our graduates."
- Ariene Willkom, alumni giving staff
"I'm just happy. There's relief that it's over and I'm ready to be moving on to what's next."
- Luis Chavez, graduate
"I'm so excited!"
- Bekka Peterson, graduate