Brent Scrivner completed his transition from welder to college graduate on Saturday when he walked across the stage in Columbia College’s Southwell Complex.
The 38-year-old Jefferson City man, who started his career as a welder after high school, finished about six years of evening classes to earn his bachelor’s degree in business. While going to school, he worked as a sales engineer at ABB Power T&D Co. in Jefferson City. He graduated cum laude.
“He was so busy, he was hard to even get on the phone,” said Judy Scrivner, Brent Scrivner’s stepmother. “He wasn’t going to school to get a piece of paper. He worked hard.”
Brent Scrivner was one of 231 students who received diplomas from Columbia on Saturday. The number was the largest ever for a Columbia College winter graduation.
Because Columbia President Gerald Brouder was called away on a family emergency, Terry Smith, vice president and dean for academic affairs, led the ceremony.
“It’s such a day of pride,” Smith said. “I’ve been to dozens and dozens of commencements, and it never gets old.”
However, this winter’s ceremony was particularly special for Smith. He was able to announce the attendance of a man who he said has been his hero for 50 years: National Baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial.
“He’s one of the greatest sports legends and one of the finest Americans around,” Smith said after the ceremony.
Musial’s grandson, Brian Musial Schwarze, graduated from Columbia with a degree in business.
“We feel wonderful, we’re absolutely ecstatic,” said Janet Schwarze, Brian Schwarze’s mother. Musial, 83, came equipped with autographed photos for fans.
“I’m hanging in there,” he said after the ceremony, which lasted about an hour and a half.
Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Phyllis Chase gave the commencement address.
“Your presence here today shows that at some point you set a goal, and now you’re being recognized for that,” Chase said.
About 10,000 students take courses through Columbia College. On Saturday, the school awarded 18 master’s degrees, 187 bachelor’s degrees and 26 associate’s degrees.
Avril Jandles received a bachelor’s degree in business administration, but no famous grandfather was there to witness her achievement. Indeed, no member of Jandles’ family was able to leave her home country of Zimbabwe to attend.
Her parents, two sisters and brother all live in Harare, Zimbabwe. Jandles, 25, is the youngest and the only one educated outside Africa.
Jandles, who was a forward on the college’s basketball team, said the biggest challenge in attending Columbia College was leaving her family.
“It’s hard,” she said. “They understand why I came here. They are very supportive of me getting an education.”
She plans to attend graduate school next fall and hopes to go into international business.
Other graduates were less certain of their futures.
Marc Robinson, 24, who uses “Marcus” as his stage name, graduated with a degree in English. But Robinson, who played “Scooter the Cougar” at Columbia College sporting events, ultimately wants to be a stand-up comedian or a writer for a comedy show.
He tentatively plans to teach English in Taiwan for a year, but would like to work in comedy clubs in St. Louis.
“I’m not exactly sure what people are supposed to do after they graduate from college,” Robinson said. “So I’m just making it up as I go.”