The annual March Through the Arches, undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies bring the St. Thomas community together to recognize the accomplishments of the class of 2018. Sights and Sounds highlight some of the many thoughts, experiences and memories from the year’s biggest celebration of Tommies.
More than 1,300 undergraduate students officially became part of the St. Thomas alumni community on Saturday as the Class of 2018 received their degrees. O'Shaughnessy Stadium was filled with thousands more family, friends, faculty and staff as the university celebrated the accomplishments of so many Tommies.
"Graduates, the entire St. Thomas community shares your pride on this special day. This is my favorite day of the year! It is the day we celebrate all you have accomplished and all you have become, as well as look forward with great excitement and anticipation to the next leg of your journeys," said president Julie Sullivan. "Like the thousands of Tommies before you making their marks on the world, you will as well. We are confident that you have completed your studies well prepared for your future journeys and committed to advancing the common good."
“It’s really exciting. I’m ready to move on to the next stage, but I will always have St. Thomas in my heart. … I’ve built such great friendships and a great community here. I’m most looking forward to coming back once I’m established a bit more in my career and helping with alumni events and mentoring. Alumni helped me so much while I was here, so I want to pass that on.” – Sarah Schuler ’18, who has accepted a consulting role with Boom Lab in Minneapolis
“It’s a big transition point from the only lifestyle I’ve ever known, being a student, to having a career. I’m glad it’s not 80 degrees today in this robe. It’s the next chapter. I came in after the first year somewhere else … so to have found somewhere I love to be and finish on time was great.” – Jesse Sabota ’18, who plans on going into forestry
“It’s a stepping stone, really, a transition into adulthood. … I have a lot of pride today. I look back at the four years and it happened in the blink of an eye. I had a lot of fun and made a ton of friends I’ll have for the rest of my life.” – Austin Gilyard ‘18, who plans on going continuing his education into medical school
“It’s the finishing of four years of really hard work culminating in a degree. It’s great. … Today it’s mostly thinking about the friend I’ve made and the career I have to look forward to.” – Rachel Smith ’18, who will start graduate school in English this fall
“It’s the last piece of the puzzle. It’s a happy day. I’m the first in my family to graduate from college, so this is a big step for me and my family.” – Sebastian Ky ‘18
“It’s four years of a lot of hard work. We’re all excited to be done and graduating, but it’s sad at the same time that it’s over.” – Ashley Winselman ‘18
“I graduated in December, so it’s cool to come back and see my professors and friends after being out and working for a few months. … I’m excited to see my grandma; I have family here today I haven’t seen in forever, which is awesome.” – Brock Deering ’18, who began working at Ecolab in February
“It seems like yesterday we moved in. … It’s exciting to have [my mom, Cindy] here with me. She’s graduating in August from graduate school; you’re such a huge inspiration to me. You’re the reason I’ve done all this.” – Bailey Pierotti ’18, wearing “Got it from my momma” on the top of her grad cap
“This has been the perfect place for her to be the last four years. We’re so proud of her.” – Cindy Pierotti
“It’s exciting for the students. It’s a beginning of a new life for them.” - Patricia Conde-Brooks, student affairs staff
“Today’s a culmination of the last 20-plus years I’ve spent in school. … That piece of paper is a sign of all the hard work we’ve put in.” – Zach Stueve ’18, who will start with Wells Fargo in August
“Graduating for professors is like New Year’s Eve: It’s the end of something and the start of something new. It’s great. It’s fun to see today for the students.” – Paul Mellick, health and human performance assistant professor
“The people that have surrounded me here is who I’m thinking about today. I’m excited to have all my friends here together in one spot; today’s the culmination of four years of friendship.” – Warren Melton ‘18
“Today means a lot. It’s cool and exciting to see everyone come together with family and friends to celebrate us.” – Kate Washenberger ’18
“It’s exciting. You’re proud, the students are so excited, so happy. It’s great.” - Margaret Cahill, student affairs staff
Businesswoman and commencement speaker Ann Winblad '75 M.Ed. channeled the likes of both Pink Floyd and Joan Didion in encouraging the Class of 2018 to make their mark on the world.
"Your continued commitment to diversity, inclusion and social justice, what we Tommies call the common good, that will impact us all," she said. “You too will now audition the future every day. You are prepared…to absorb history, seek complexity and uncertainty, and see the world as a glass half full.”
Student commencement speaker Devine Zheng spoke to her classmates of the power of the class of 2018's liberal arts education as crucial preparation for entering a diverse and changing world.
"The significance of our decision to pursue a liberal arts education, whether our four-year-younger selves knew it at the time, is that it has encouraged us to interpret information from a more comprehensive, holistic perspective," she said. "This not only makes us more informed citizens, but it also assists us in working across the myriad of differences that are naturally present in an autonomous society. By analyzing the arguments of philosophers and politicians, we have practiced seeing beyond the superficial positions that lie at the surface of their ideologies, allowing us to understand the interests, motivations, influences, and experiences that have shaped their worldview."
Citing the quote of St. Thomas' namesake, Thomas Aquinas, to "beware of the person of one book," Zheng encouraged the class of 2018 to "be the people of many books—literally, as liberally educated people, but also as people who are not afraid of the complex and the difficult. We must practice the lessons of our liberal arts education in our everyday lives by challenging ourselves to be cognizant of our strengths as well as our weaknesses, our beliefs as well as our biases," she said. "As we embark on the next chapters of our lives, let’s remember with fondness the many wonderful memories that have been fostered on this campus, and at the same time, let us recognize the persistent necessity of an on-going liberal arts education."