2015 Winter Commencement

December 12th, 2015 | SMWC

Student Leadership award recipient Noelle Hingsbergen with SMWC President Dottie King, Ph.D.

View commencement photos on Flickr


Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) celebrated its 178th commencement on Saturday, December 12, 2015. A total of 66 graduates from 14 different states walked in the ceremony – 27 with bachelor’s degrees and 39 with master’s degrees. Winter commencement includes students who have graduated from May through December 2015 and also students who are candidates for graduation later in the spring.

Douglas E. Sperry, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at SMWC and 2015 recipient of the Sister Mary Joseph Pomeroy Award for Faculty Excellence in Scholarship, delivered the commencement address. Perry is a developmental psychologist interested in the impact of social class variation on normative language development in the preschool years. He is currently investigating the language environments of very young children from five communities within the United States. Sperry received his master’s degree in developmental psychology from the Catholic University of America and his doctoral degree in developmental psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His doctoral research was awarded a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. In addition, he holds degrees in piano and French, and is a nationally-certified teacher of piano.

Sperry began by pointing out that each student has a unique story and a unique journey, just like Saint Mother Theodore Guerin whose journey led her to found Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Throughout his address, Sperry shared three proverbs with the students: “The answers God gives are wiser than the prayers he receives;” “Bloom where you are planted;” and “We are the stories we makes, for we become the stories we remember.” He imparted to students what these proverbs meant to his life story and that of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

“I encourage you to leave this auditorium making your own stories,” he finished. “The fabric of your lives is already rich; you have made it so. Continue to weave into this fabric the threads of future joys and woes, successes and failures. Make meaning in the world around you, remembering your past and reinterpreting it in your future. Most of all, let Providence inspire, guide, and sustain you on your journey.”

Twenty-four of the graduates who walked across the stage completed their degrees through Woods Online. Among those were the first graduates of the new RN to BSN completion program. Melissa Lemmons, of Terre Haute, Ind., who received her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“I chose SMWC because I am an alum of the College and had always hoped it would offer nursing,” Lemmons stated. “I am very proud to be a part of the first graduating BSN class. Feels good to be a part of SMWC history!” Lemmons is currently a RN in obstetrics at Union Hospital and plans to obtain her International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) certification next year.

Five RN to BSN graduates were presented their SMWC nursing pins at the pinning ceremony the evening prior to commencement.

Student Leadership award recipient Kristin Craig with SMWC President Dottie King, Ph.D.

Student Leadership Awards

During the ceremony, two graduates received the prestigious Alumni Leadership and Service Award. The award recognizes outstanding students who have demonstrated exceptional service and responsible leadership during their time at The Woods.

The 2015 undergraduate recipient, Noelle Hingsbergen, of Cincinnati, Ohio, made a significant impact at The Woods during her time as a student. As a freshman student assistant in the Career Development Center at SMWC, she learned important life skills about effective communication, professionalism and leadership. By serving as an Orientation Leader for two years, she was able to help new students find a home at The Woods. Following her sophomore year, she earned the opportunity of a lifetime to serve as an intern at Gunston Hall Farm, a thoroughbred horse farm located in Kentucky. This internship allowed her the opportunity to assist resident vets in the care of horses.

Her passion for the equine industry began at Diamond Oak Horse Camp in Cincinnati. And, for the past nine summers, she has volunteered her time at the camp to teach children the fundamentals of riding and led learning activities. In addition, she helped the camp director with barn maintenance and overall operations of the camp. While attending classes at SMWC, she also volunteered as a lesson program assistant for the equine department. Following graduation, she intends to follow her passion and pursue a position in the equine industry. Hingsbergen earned her Bachelor of Science in equine studies.

“I am not the same young high school graduate who walked through the doors of Le Fer Hall with dreams and goals,” Hingsbergen stated. “I have become a woman who branches out, works to make her dreams a reality, and is a part of a tremendous community.”

The 2015 graduate recipient, Kristin Craig, of Terre Haute, Ind., graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from SMWC in 2003 and is now receiving her Master of Leadership Development degree. Since obtaining her undergraduate degree, she has dedicated her career to making Terre Haute a better community. During the past 12 years, she has served in a variety of roles at the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, including as interim executive director. She currently serves as director of communications and operations. She has recently joined the boards of two community organizations – Art Spaces, Inc., and Hamilton Center, Inc., both of which afford her the opportunity to serve in even greater capacities. She also works to engage young professionals in the community by serving on the Terre Haute Young Leaders Advisory Board, as co-chair of the communications action team for Terre Haute Tomorrow and as an Advisory Board member for the Wabash Valley Leadership Institute.

She is grateful for the lessons she learned in the classroom during the MLD program. However, she is more grateful for the lessons she’s been able to teach her three young daughters during the past year. From the moment her girls learned she was going back to college, they have been incredibly supportive. They have recognized her commitment to challenge herself and are genuinely proud of her accomplishments. She said, “Walking across the stage and receiving my diploma at graduation was important for me, but more importantly, it will allow my girls to see that you should never stop reaching, learning and leading.”

Aspire Higher award recipient Becky Buse with SMWC President Dottie King, Ph.D.

President’s Aspire Higher Award

The President’s Aspire Higher Award honors community leaders who demonstrate a passion for using the present to create a better future. This year’s Aspire Higher Award is being awarded to Becky Buse, of Terre Haute, Ind., previous advocacy and community development director of the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana. Buse held this position for eight years prior to her retirement in 2015.

Prior to her position with the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, Buse served two years as the development director of the Covered Bridge Girl Scout council. For nine years, she served as the executive director of the Vigo County YWCA and previously also served as the executive director of the Vigo County Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Prior to receiving the President’s Aspire Higher Award from SMWC, Buse was the recipient of the Athena Award sponsored by the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce; Book of Golden Deeds Award from the Vigo County Exchange Club; Business and Professional Woman of the Year; Award of Merit for Outstanding Achievement from the Indiana Central Labor Council; Terre Award Winner for Public Sector given by the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce and she was named a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow.