Commencement ceremonies are replete with symbols and traditions. The academic regalia we wear can be traced back to the 12th and 13th centuries. The “Hymn to Central Youth,” composed by Joyce Hubrigste Kuyper ’39, is performed by members of the historic A Cappella Choir. We process into the H.S. Kuyper Fieldhouse as the Symphonic Wind Ensemble performs “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Newer traditions emerge as well. Our graduates now receive an alumni pin from their class dean, which is then pinned to their graduation gowns during the ceremony. The consistency of ceremony honors and celebrates the traditions of the past, even as commencement literally signals the beginning of a new chapter in life. It always reminds me the strength and courage we need to succeed in the future is deeply rooted in our heritage.
One of Central College’s great strengths is the deep and abiding sense of community shared among our alumni. I always find it fascinating when I hear alumni from different generations in Central’s history share stories about the things they valued most in their experiences. Though the specifics may vary, the themes are quite similar. They reflect the relational nature of our shared learning experience among students and faculty. They recount the ways in which they felt prepared for the personal and professional journey ahead. They talk about the mentoring of staff members and coaches who helped to shape their lives. It seems that deep-rooted traditions are not only found in our ceremonies, but also in our network of caring relationships.
Perhaps what impresses me most is that the community of Central College extends well beyond the campus and across many years. During the various social events surrounding commencement I have many opportunities to ask our graduates, “What’s next?” I marvel as I hear about plans for interesting professional opportunities or admission to graduate or professional schools. For some, a meaningful volunteer experience with the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps is a next step.
Often in these conversations, the story includes alumni connections that were instrumental in guiding the next step. Even more, I hear stories about how a transition to a new city or a new part of the country has or will involve local assistance from our alumni.
At the end of the commencement ceremony as I charge our new graduates, I remind them our alumni located throughout the world are ready to welcome them with open arms. I say this with confidence since I have heard so often of kind gestures extended to a recent graduate. Perhaps it’s an invitation to dinner. Maybe it’s an introduction to a business associate. If nothing more than a word of encouragement or an offer to serve as a point of contact, the extension of our network of caring relationships means simply that the campus has no borders.
I invite you to extend the borders of Central College wherever you are by caring for and serving one another. It may be our very best tradition.