Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) celebrated its 176th commencement on Saturday, December 13, 2014. A total of 62 graduates from 15 different states walked in the ceremony – 20 with bachelor’s degrees and 42 with master’s degrees. Winter commencement includes students who have graduated from May through December 2014 and also students who are candidates for graduation later in the spring.
Jamie McCracken, associate professor of business at SMWC, delivered the commencement address. McCracken graduated from SMWC in 2000 with majors in accounting and mathematics, from Baker College in Michigan with an MBA in Leadership Studies, and will graduate from Walden University in the spring of 2015 with a Ph.D. in management, concentrating in finance. In her ninth year at The Woods, she teaches a variety of accounting, tax and finance courses.
McCracken advised students take their time through life. “Enjoy today, remember yesterday and never forget where you have come from. The Woods will forever be where you’ve found yourself.” She added, “Once you find your passion in life, you will cherish every moment of doing what you love and that will make the world a better place.”
For Ashley Shew from Terre Haute, Ind., it was a day of firsts. “I am the first person in my family to graduate from college,” she explained. “It is important for my family and my children to see this accomplishment.” Shew graduated with a degree in elementary education and credits the Woods Online program in helping her reach this milestone. “I was able to work and take care of my family while taking classes.”
Student Leadership Awards
During the ceremony, three graduates received the prestigious Alumnae/i Leadership and Service Award. The award recognizes outstanding students who have demonstrated exceptional service and responsible leadership during their time at The Woods.
The 2014 undergraduate recipient Amanda Payton has been involved in a variety of leadership positions on campus from honors academics to athletics to co-curricular activities. Payton earned her Bachelor of Science in business administration and marketing.
Payton served the campus community in the following ways:
- Judicial Board
- Junior Class President
- Leadership Summit
- Phi Beta Lambda
- Pomeroy Soccer
- President’s Council
- SMWC Honors Program
- Sophomore Class President
- Student Senate
- True Colors, and
- Young Leaders.
Additionally, she worked closely with the Office of Alumnae/i Affairs as an intern and was instrumental in developing a mentor program between students and alums titled “Woodsie to Woodsie.”
The College presented two Alumnae/i Leadership and Service awards to graduate students – Jessica Cornelius from Carmel, Ind. and Noah Coley from Brazil, Ind.
Jessica Cornelius believes the master of leadership program gave her a fresh perspective on her career in healthcare. Cornelius, an independent IT consultant, was recently named the full-time IT executive at a healthcare organization, Hendricks Regional Health, in central Indiana. She will lead the organization through operational efficiency initiatives and integrating technology into many processes to improve the patient experience.
Additionally, Cornelius coaches professional women in career path development and is active in the archdiocese of Lafayette. She is a member of the Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Project Management Institute, Society of Human Resource Management, and Women in Hi Tech.
Noah Coley, public relations specialist at Hamilton Center, Inc., in Terre Haute, Ind., leads the organizations online platforms including social media, blogs, and podcasts to educate the public on mental health issues. Coley plans to use the leadership skills acquired through the master of leadership program to develop a team of skilled communicators, marketers, clinicians, to creative a positive message around mental issues and encourage individuals to seek treatment.
Coley serves the community as a member of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce and the Union United Methodist Church. He volunteers at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Wabash Valley Youth for Christ and the Clay City Imperial Regiment. Coley is also a mentor for a New Citizen Program for Hamilton Center, Inc.
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 posthumously. Jeanne Knoerle, SP, graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1949. She also earned two master’s degrees, in journalism and business, from Indiana University and a doctorate in composition and literary Chinese from Indiana University. She taught at several schools in Illinois, Indiana and Washington, D.C., and served as a visiting professor at Providence College in Taiwan prior to returning to work at SMWC. She held several positions at the College including serving as the 12th president from 1968 through 1983. While president, Knoerle was instrumental in founding the Women’s External Degree (WED) program. As the second distance education program in the country, the WED program (currently Woods Online) provided a valuable resource to women wanting to attain their educational goals. Upon retirement as president, Knoerle went on to serve as a consultant to the religious division of the Lilly Endowment and she was a founding member of Our Green Valley Alliance for Sustainability in Terre Haute. She served as the honorary chairperson of the campaign to build a sports and recreation center on the campus of SMWC for over ten years.
The College community remembers her fondly as a woman who saw the “big picture.” Her contributions to the advancement of female leadership, the promotion of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, the genuine care for students and her legacy of forward thinking leadership made her an ideal candidate for the 2014 Aspire Higher award.