COLUMBIA — Sarah Renaud, 18, was the first to arrive at the Historic Quadrangle side of the renovated walking bridge that spans College Avenue on Thursday afternoon. Her parents, Jeanne and Greg Renaud, talked to two women clad in bright pink Stephens College T-shirts. Slowly, more women arrived at the bridge's edge.
In 1997, graduating seniors walked from the Chapel Quadrangle, across the two bridges and into the Historic Quadrangle. The tradition stopped for some years but was brought back for the 2012 graduating class, said Shannon Walls, vice president of philanthropy at Stephens College.
But this is the first year for The Crossing of the Bridge Ceremony, what is planned as a new tradition for entering freshman; each fall, they'll be walking in the opposite direction, into the heart of the campus.
“Tradition is very important at Stephens,” Walls said.
In addition to being a new event, the Stephens' students walked on two new bridge spans across College Avenue and Broadway. Working on replacing the spans began Aug. 9. Stephens had budgeted $500,000 for the project.
Dianne Lynch, president of Stephens College, made her way through the crowd gathered in front of the new structures. She already knew some students through Facebook and face-to-face meetings around town.
“You will have an extraordinary experience” at Stephens, and “you will be amazing Stephens women," Lynch said to the class of 2016, just before the students started their walk.
As Renaud crossed over College Avenue with her class, a few drops of rain fell. But the students barely noticed; most talked to their new floor mates and asked about each others' majors.
Some felt awkward in the conspicuous crowd walking above a busy street. Leah Kostencki, 19, of Highlandsville, Ill., said, “I don’t like being the center of attention. At least I’m not doing it alone.”
Jessie Iveson, 19, of Columbia, joked that without the bridge they would just be walking through traffic.
Waiting on the other side, parents raised their cameras above the crowd of alumni and staff to capture the moment. Sharon Schattgen, class of '77, called this a “wonderful opportunity for alumni to welcome students and let them know how wonderful of a time they will have at Stephens.”
Missourian reporter Sini Stephan contributed to this report.