Appreciation dominated Stephens College commencement ceremony

Saturday, May 5, 2012 | 6:24 p.m. CDT; updated 7:04 p.m. CDT, Saturday, May 5, 2012
Stephens College held its undergraduate commencement ceremony Saturday at the John and Mary Silverthorne Arena.

COLUMBIA — Lasting and loud applause and cheers filled the John and Mary Silverthorne Arena on Saturday as two lines of students in black gowns walked to attend the Stephens College commencement ceremony.

Dianne Lynch, Stephens College president, gave the welcome speech and congratulations. After that, Lynch asked the students to stand up, make eye contact and blow kisses to those they feel thankful for. Some people in the crowd wiped tears from their eyes.

This year's undergraduate commencement ceremony featured a video — an idea of Lynch's — of hundreds of pictures of the lives and achievements of Stephens students. It also included greetings from faculty members.

The undergraduate speaker was Jasmine Johnson, who earned her bachelor's in psychology. She spoke about her appreciation of having a quality education from the college.

Johnson said she learned about "strength, courage, confidence, power, wisdom and abilities."

"We are leaving today with so much more than a degree, " she said.

Also among the graduates was Ashley Bryant, who received a bachelor's in fashion marketing and management. She will go to New York for an internship with Tommy Hilfiger.

She said Stephens College taught her how to be a responsible person. For her, graduation is a milestone.

"It's just like a big relief to me," Bryant said. 

Bryant also wanted to give special thanks to her friends and family who gave her support and encouragement. 

Malia Wirtel, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater arts, will soon start an internship at the Kentucky Repertory Theatre. She said her professors have helped her better prepare for her career.

"Work hard and believe in yourself. You can do anything," Wirtel said."It's been an amazing time and an amazing learning opportunity. "

Waiting to pass the bridge to the commencement ceremony, Wirtel said graduation still seemed surreal.

"I can't believe this has already been three years," Wirtel said. 

Of the 171 undergraduates receiving diplomas, about 150 of them attended the ceremony, Sarah Berghorn, communications coordinator at Stephens College, said.

The graduate ceremony

Earlier in the day, the graduate commencement ceremony was held at the John and Mary Silverthorne Arena. Of the 59 graduate students receiving master's degrees, 4o walked in the ceremony, Berghorn said.

Anita Parran, a Stephens College trustee and associate state director for public affairs of AARP Missouri, gave the keynote speech.

Parran addressed the meaning of success by using a "pencil parable." She compared a successful life to a pencil, which needs to go through painful sharpening, has the most important part inside and leaves a mark after every passage.

The class speaker for the graduate ceremony was Jessica Beasley, who received a Master of Education in Counseling degree. She spoke about what she learned from studying in the college.

"We learned to possess the perseverance to take on difficult tasks and be successful," Beasley said. "We learned to be stronger, wiser and better people."

Beasley said she didn't need to tell graduate students about the real world because they have already known about it. But she said it is important not to be sucked into daily life and let opportunities pass by.

Supervising editor is Kellie Kotraba.

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