Of course Jennifer Mathews was ready to finish her degree and get her Ring from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) on July 25. After the year Class of 2020 had, every student was.
But for Mathews, who traveled from Texas to be at the ceremonies, it was more than just going through the motions. She was doing it for her mother, who passed away.
Without her mom, Mathews might not have made it to The Woods. At an event, her mom met an admissions counselor and set Mathews up to become a Pomeroy.
“’I’m going to send this to you ‘cause you’re going to switch programs,’ she said to me. I was like, ‘I don’t even want to go back to school, mom.’ She said, ‘No, I already talked to her,’” Mathews remembers. She was pursuing her masters at another institution but wasn’t entirely happy with it.
Mathews, who graduated with her Master of Leadership Development and received her Ring, had Dr. Lamprini Pantazi. Pantazi is the director the program, and also teaches the field.
And she knows exactly who Mathews’ mom is.
“’I’ve never had as a college professor someone’s mother come visit me to say, ‘I’m a former Woodsie, and you’re gonna take my daughter,’” Mathews recalls her professor saying when meeting her.
Before the ceremonies began, Mathews found her mom’s composite photo, who was in the class of 1976, in the halls of Guerin. She even put her mom’s photo on her cap as a tribute.
Mathews was teary-eyed as her godmother co-presented her Ring with President Dottie King.
While Mathews is missing her mother, Shailee Wetter is learning to become one as she completed her bachelor of science in psychology through the Woods Online program.
She wasn’t just learning to take care of one baby, but instead 18-month-old triplets.
Wetter said getting her degree ‘means everything’ to her. She attended another college previously, but she said SMWC spoke to her differently.
“The faculty and staff here are amazing. They helped me every step of the way and I never felt like I was lost,” she said.
Many high schools, colleges and universities held virtual graduations because they weren’t able to orchestrate face-to-face events. Wetter was glad the College had an in-person ceremony, where her family was able to see her walk across the stage.
“It means a lot – it’s taken a long time for me to get my degree,” Wetter said. But the time paid off. She received the Maud Helm Rockwell Medals for Academic Excellence, which recognizes students with the highest academic grade point average.
Campus graduate Morgan Nobbe from Greensburg, Indiana, who finished her bachelor of science in nursing, got to walk across the stage with support from her family and friends on July 24 for the Pinning Ceremony for nursing students along with commencement on July 25.
“During the Pinning Ceremony, my mom got to pin me with the SMWC Nursing pin. This is a big deal to me because my mom is also a nurse and was the one who inspired me to become a nurse,” Nobbe said.
Nobbe has already started her job as a registered nurse on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. She said the hands-on teaching at SMWC has prepared her for the job.
“Starting my nursing career in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t what I expected, but I feel well prepared during this uncertain time. The professors in the nursing department go above and beyond to educate the students with knowledge they need to succeed,” she said.
Along with starting her job, she has also hit her goal of buying a house and will be getting married in September. It was an eventful year for her, to say the least.
“Having the last part of my senior year taken away was one of the hardest things for me as I loved going to a school that offered both nursing and a collegiate athletic horse team,” Nobbe said, who qualified for post season in western horsemanship, fences and flat.
She’s just glad she was able to have a conclusion to her senior year.
“When SMWC shut down in March I figured that was the end and I would be receiving my diploma in the mail, but SMWC really cares about their students,” Nobbe said. “Graduation day is what I have been waiting for and I am beyond grateful they made it happen during this crazy time.”
Michelle Visker, who received her Master of Arts, agreed that the ceremony was a good way to finish.
“It felt like a nice way to close a chapter. With everything that’s going on, there was a lot of uncertainty. It was a nice close to this book so I can venture on to the next book,” Visker said.
She was glad to see her classmates – a group she’s gotten so close with that they got tattoos together.
“I’m really happy I got to see the cohort members I’ve come to love,” she said.
Jessena Goddard earned her bachelor of science in psychology, and was also glad she was able to go back to campus for the event. Her family, all wearing matching Pomeroy blue t-shirts that read “Grad Squad 2020,” showed up to support her.
“It means a lot because I worked really hard for this,” Goddard said.
Mathews was pleasantly surprised with an in-person ceremony, she said.
“I was even satisfied with what Dottie did online. But the Ring Day and graduation, it’s really for my mom. It’s more of a tribute to her,” she said.View more photos on Flickr