COLUMBIA — When the last graduate crossed the stage, Dianne Lynch, Stephens College’s president, asked for one final round of applause for the students, now turned alumni.
The Kimball Ballroom shone with a yellow tint as family and friends of winter graduates commemorated the event on Saturday morning.
Since this was Lynch’s first commencement as president of Stephens College, she began the ceremony by welcoming the audience and the graduates as her “very special first class.”
Forty students participated in the ceremony out of 61 students earning a degree. According to the Stephens Registrar's Office, there were 40 bachelor’s degrees, 21 master’s degrees and two associate degrees in health information technology earned this semester.
Instead of having a keynote speaker, Lynch spoke to the graduates about the points of being a Stephens College Star, which included commitment to lifelong learning and taking advantage of opportunities as they come. One of the day's stars was Melynda Schlude, who spoke on behalf of the graduate students.
Schlude, who spoke after undergraduate representative Paulina Ramirez, suspected she was nominated by friends and a professor to be a class speaker because she differed from most of her classmates in one major way: She is a mother to three young children.
“It was challenging, and it had its moments where they wanted me to do stuff with them and I had to say no,” Schlude said. “I can’t go to the park, or no I can’t do that, because I have a paper to write on Sunday afternoon. But they were very supportive and it worked.”
After graduating from MU in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she stayed in Columbia to raise her children, ages 9, 7 and 5. After being out of the classroom for 15 years, she decided to return to school in August 2007 to earn a master’s degree in education.
“I’d always wanted to pursue a degree in counseling,” Schlude said. “And I just decided that since I’d been home for so long, I was going to need to do something that was going to make me marketable.”
In January, Schlude will assume a research associate position with MU, working to implement a new curriculum for special education within Columbia Public Schools.
The commencement ceremony concluded with cake and juice, hugs from friends and family and a group picture of all the graduates together.
"You are now officially a part of Stephens College's 176-year legacy," Lynch said.