Graduates standing at commencement

Commencement, Ring Day ceremonies as close to tradition as possible

News | 07.25.2020
President King speaking at commencement
President Dottie King speaks to graduates on July 25 in the Hamilton Arena located in the Jeanne Knoerle Sports and Recreation Center.

For most members of the Class of 2020 throughout the nation, commencement was transformed into a virtual event where graduates and families watched as names were called to empty seats, shown on a screen.

Today, the graduating class of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College experienced a hybrid ceremony for the 186th Commencement as it was offered in-person and livestream in the Hamilton Arena of the Jeanne Knoerle Sports and Recreation Center. The perseverance of the students, as well as faculty, staff and President Dottie King, Ph.D., allowed SMWC to pivot in order to preserve traditions within the constraints of COVID-19 challenges.

The Class of 2020 consisted of 302 students, the largest class of graduates in recent history, reflecting the growing enrollment numbers SMWC has enjoyed over the past few years.

Commencement cap
A Woods Online graduate’s cap reads “It takes a big heart to teach little minds.”

Unlike previous commencements, the day was divided into two graduation ceremonies with the campus students graduating in the morning and the Woods Online and graduate students walking in the afternoon.  

Following a strict pandemic event plan, the College followed its COVID-19 protocols and limited the number of family and friends attending. Some families were able to watch the broadcast livestream as part of an overflow space across campus.

The Baccalaureate Mass, traditionally held in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, was adapted for the Hamilton Arena and combined with Ring Day, which had been postponed in March.

Meredith Williams, assistant professor of business in the Business and Leadership at SMWC, presented the commencement address to the eager crowd of students. The recipient of the 2020 Pomeroy Faculty Award for Teaching, Williams spoke to the graduates as they begin their adventure into the world about plans and vision.

Williams speaking at commencement
Commencement address speaker Meredith Williams, assistant professor of business at SMWC, encourages graduates to begin their adventures in the world during the ceremony on July 25.

“Visons and expectations for 2020 have not been met as a result of the coronavirus,” said Williams in her address as she encouraged the graduates to not be confined by plans and visions that become altered. “Sometimes life is better than visions and plans and it should be embraced.”

Janet Clark, Ph.D., vice president for academic and student affairs, presented the student candidates for degrees, and Barbara Brugnaux ’70, chair of the board of trustees, conferred the degrees. Student awards were presented during both commencements for leadership and service by Jan Lorenzano ’84, president of the SMWC National Alumni Board. The Undergraduate Alumni Leadership and Service Award winners were Olivia Wendel and Heather Eckert. The Graduate Alumni Leadership and Service Award winner was Nathan Mensah.

President King awarded the Kappa Gamma Pi St. Catherine Medal, demonstrating both academic excellence and exemplary service and leadership both on and off campus, to Allison Mauk and Julie Snyder. King also presented the Maud Helm Rockwell Medals for Academic Excellence to the students with the highest grade point average for undergraduate students in the campus and online formats to Ashley Zuo, Theresa Fischer, Julie Snyder and Shailee Wetter.

Lorenzano taking photo of new alum
A Woods Online graduate has her photo taken by president of the Alumni Board, Jan Lorenzano ’84 after commencement on July 25.

While the ceremonies were altered from tradition, the importance stood.

To view the 10 a.m. commencement of campus graduates, go here.

The Baccalaureate Liturgy and Ring Day ceremonies can be viewed here.

Graduates of the Woods Online program can be seen here.

View more photos on Flickr