Four short years ago, the Class of 2022 walked onto campus under the St. Thomas Arches, ready for a journey of learning and exploration. On May 20, that journey came to a fitting end as students became alumni walking out from under those very same Arches.
Hundreds of parents, friends and community members lined the sidewalk to cheer on the latest crop of graduates as they embarked on a new chapter, armed with the knowledge and relationships forged at St. Thomas.
“We did not get here alone,” Cora Heinzen ’22 said, senior class president. “Even though our time here is coming to an end, our loved ones and treasured memories will stay with us no matter where we go.”
With much of their St. Thomas career unfolding alongside the pandemic, the Class of 2022 is uniquely qualified to take on new challenges in an ever-changing world.
“The work we have put in for the last few years cannot and should not be understated,” Heinzen said.
This year’s March Out of the Arches was especially significant for outgoing President Julie Sullivan. Joining in on the tradition with students, Sullivan walked out from under the Arches as she, too, prepares for a new chapter.
“That's very special to me. This is a moment that I will carry with me in my heart as I go from here as well,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan is headed to California to take over as president at Santa Clara University. As she did at St. Thomas, Sullivan will again make history when she becomes Santa Clara’s first lay leader, and first female president.
“I’m so thrilled for Julie. She’s been a phenomenal president. She’s done so much, especially for students,” Vice President for Student Affairs Karen Lange, EdD, said. “It’s been a transformative experience having Julie here. I’m happy for her. At Santa Clara University, she’s going to be near her grandchildren, which is really important. I’m a grandma, too, so I get it, but I will miss her immensely.”
For the newest alumni of St. Thomas, the day was also bittersweet, as they reflected on lessons learned and their favorite memories on campus.
“The biggest lesson that I learned [in my time at St. Thomas] is to really get to know everyone that you meet, and never judge anyone before you get to know them,” Lexi Shields ’22 said, an economics and public policy major. “Everyone has value and everyone brings something unique to the campus … you just need to get to know them to find out what that is.”
For many students, St. Thomas is now their home away from home. Philosophy major Simon Zamani ’22 is from Nigeria, and plans to attend graduate school at St. Thomas to obtain a Master of Social Work.
“Love people. Be charitable with anything that you have,” Zamani said. “Thank you to St. Thomas for giving me the opportunity to come study here. I can never forget my experience here at St. Thomas – it’s changed my life, strengthened my faith in so many ways and I’ve made some lifelong friends.”
March Out of the Arches completes a full circle moment of sorts for students. Executive Vice President and Provost Eddy Rojas reflected on the energy the Class of 2022 is feeling four years after taking their first journey under the Arches.
“It’s even more exciting for students to march out of the Arches, because what we focus on is making sure that our students not only come to St. Thomas, but graduate from St. Thomas,” Rojas said. “It’s extremely important to make sure that we’re supportive through their educational journey all four years. This is the culmination of those four years. It’s also extremely cool to see all of the families here today cheering on their graduates.”
Finance major Michael Vecitis ’22 reflected on the strong finish to his St. Thomas career.
“My favorite memories involved my time on the club volleyball team, which I did all four years,” Vecitis said. “This last year, we got to go back to the national tournament again, where we took third place. It was great to end the college experience like that.”
Brant Skogrand ’04 MBC contributed to this article.