Will they go on to graduate school to study medicine? Open a business? Become teachers?
For the 287 Simpson students who were eligible for degree, the weather at the April 28 graduation ceremony must have felt like a metaphor. Sunny days await them.
The group included 276 students who were candidates for a Bachelor of Arts degree; nine students who were candidates for a Bachelor of Music degree; one student who was a candidate for a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice degree; and one student who was a candidate for a Master of Arts in Teaching degree.
Before they arrived at Cowles Fieldhouse for the ceremony, the Class of 2018 continued a Simpson tradition by walking through the gates at College Hall and between two lines formed by faculty members who applauded them.
The honorary grand marshals were Steve and Susie Fiterman, members of the Simpson Class of 1968, which is marking its 50thanniversary this year.
Several awards were presented:
*Rich Ramos, associate dean of students, received the Staff Student Impact Award, which recognizes staff member whose efforts to mentor and challenge students to graduate exceed the scope of their normal duties.
*The Distinguished Teaching Award, selected by the graduating class, was awarded to Maeve Callan, associate professor of religion.
*Terry Lillis, president of the Simpson Board of Trustees, awarded the Trustees’ Academic Award, designed for the student in the graduating class who earns the highest grade-point average and quality points.
This year, two students tied for the award – Margaret Elizabeth Long of Altoona, an East (Des Moines) High School graduate; and Matthew Ryan Hayden from Waukee.
Two students were chosen to address the audience.
Ian McKenzie of West Des Moines, who majored in environmental science and minored in management, talked about his regret in not spending more time with his grandfather, who died four years ago. He said the memory shaped who he is today.
“That’s what Simpson has done for all of us,” he said. “Over the past four years we have made memories that will mold us into the best leaders, employees and people that we can be. The classes that we have completed, the internships that we worked, and the lives that we have lived here matter.
“The memories that we have shared on this campus have shaped us into the people that we are today and will continue to shape us into the people that we will become tomorrow.”
McKenzie said the good news is that although the students are graduating, they can continue learning.
“The wonderful professors here at Simpson College have taught us to be lifelong learners,” he said.
The second speaker, Courtney Conlin of Newton, represented Simpson’s Continuing, Graduate & Online Programs. She studied public relations with a minor in management.
She told how she arrived for school as a second-grader, looked at all the parents and children, and walked right back home.
“It takes courage to go to school.,” she said. “It takes even more courage to go back to school. Either way, we are all here today because we had the courage to start on that path and had the determination to finish. For some of us, it may have taken a few years, and for others, it took longer (or eight years, to be exact).
“We were on a road filled with ups and downs, anxiety-ridden cramming sessions and well, the good times too like gaining new friends or the days when you pulled up your grades in Scholar and saw the letter grade you prayed for the night before. Either way, we made it through the bumpy road to success.”
Conlin urged the graduates to practice courage – in learning their limits, in demonstrating compassion for others and in believing in themselves.
“My personal self-confidence has grown through the process of completing my degree,” she said. “This is an achievement we all share, something that no one can take from us and forever having earned something that took confidence to even begin. Not to mention, courage.”