175th Commencement at The Woods
May 3rd, 2014 | Betsy Wells
On Sat., May 3, 2014, seventy-six Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) students walked across the stage of Cecilian Auditorium with pride in their success and achievement. At The Woods, these campus, graduate, and Woods Online students have been empowered to lead with confidence in their community. They will forever be Woods women, and they will always aspire higher.
“You will only fulfill your human potential by being a life-long learner,” Sharon Vergez Vercellotti said to the graduates during her commencement remarks. “You must be eager to venture into new vistas, unafraid to be critical of what conflicts with your human experience. Yet be docile to explore history and science, unafraid to incorporate new ideas into your personal foundations.”
Vercellotti, the president and founder of V-LABS, INC., delivered the commencement address to the 2014 graduates – 72 bachelor degrees and 4 master degrees – from 11 states. During the commencement ceremony, Vercellotti received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa from SMWC.
For the graduates, this momentous occasion could hardly be explained with words. Graduation means achieving their true potential but also signifies the next step, reaching higher than they ever imagined.
“A lot of people don’t understand how the excitement could be the same for me as it would be for a ‘normal’ college graduate, to participate in this ceremony,” said Jessica Blevins, Woods Online psychology major, of Terre Haute, Ind., who has been working toward her degree since 2005. “But, to me, it is a big deal! I was very determined to get here, and even though it was challenging, I got back up and kept going. Now, finally, I am at the finish line!”
Many awards were presented during commencement for service, leadership and academic achievement. The Maud Helm Rockwell Medals for Academic Excellence were presented to the graduate of the campus program and the graduate of the Woods Online program with the highest academic grade point average. Emma Pattee received the campus award, and Laura Leggero received the Woods Online award.
“It was very unexpected, but I’m honored,” said Pattee, English major from Columbia City, Ind. “I’ve always been really focused on my studies, and it’s nice to be recognized for it.”
The St. Catherine of Alexandria Medal, sponsored by Kappa Gamma Pi, the National Catholic College Graduate Honor Society, was awarded to campus student, Heather Ennis, humanities major, of Terre Haute, Ind., and Woods Online student, Deborah Gatchel, of North Manchester, Ind., majoring in pre-K through 3rd with mild intervention. They received the award for demonstrating both academic excellence and exemplary service and leadership on and off campus.
“Today is an opportunity for the students to share the excitement and importance of their academic accomplishments with peers, family and friends,” said Gatchel. “Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was a wonderful experience for me, and I am ready to aspire higher.”
The Alumnae Leadership and Service Award recognizes outstanding students who have demonstrated exceptional service and responsible leadership during their time at The Woods. The undergraduate recipient was Tiffany Marshall, biology major, of Kingman, Ind.; the graduate recipient was Melissa Ayotte, art therapy major, of Columbus, Ohio.
“It’s a big honor to receive this, but more than anything, the example that I’m setting for my kids is really important,” said Ayotte. “It was really important to me to show them this is how you achieve your goals and live your dreams. I’m excited that they see somebody doing that, and I’m hopeful that they will believe they can do that too. I feel embraced by the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods family, and that’s really special to me.”
During the ceremony, the College presented Cindy Hux Martin with the Distinguished Alumna Award. Martin graduated magna cum laude from The Woods in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration in accounting/secondary education. She is a vital part of the Terre Haute community and has demonstrated excellence in her career as an entrepreneur. Her service to the community and to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College made her a natural choice for this honor.
“I’ll never forget the life-changing, life-altering drive down the avenue for the first time,” said Martin. “The Woods took my heart, and the bonds you make here are with you forever. I am truly humbled. I am blinded by the light of all of our alums, and it is on their behalf that I accept this award.”
Read more about Cindy Hux Martin, SMWC Distinguished Alumna.