Commencement Recap, 2017

518 graduating seniors receive their degrees.
Posted on May 28th, 2017 by

Photo by Nick Theisen ’13.


On May 28, 2017, degrees were conferred upon the graduates of the class of 2017 at the 155th Commencement exercises of Gustavus Adolphus College.

It was a sunny and windy day—“appropriate weather for a Gustie graduation”—quipped Rev. Dan Poffenberger ’82, chair of the Board of Trustees, in his welcome remarks.

“Class of 2017, you have made a terrible mistake,” said Rev. Brian Konkol in his Baccalaureate homily. “You have committed the grave tactical blunder of obtaining the required number of credits to graduate, and now you must go.” Acknowledging a natural nervousness about the future, Konkol asked that graduates trust. “The act of graduating itself is about trusting—believing you are ready to offer something significant in this world,” he said. Four years at Gustavus should strengthen their trust in themselves. “What you have learned at the top of this hill will help in all that is below it.”

What graduates learned at Gustavus was through coursework in a rich liberal arts tradition, developed within the core values of excellence, community, justice, service, and faith. Through these things, Provost Brenda Kelly told the graduates, “You leave ready to lead purposeful lives, and to act on the great challenges of our time.”

(The grads also leave having learned the alphabet, apparently. “Good job alphabetizing yourselves,” Professor Richard Leitsch jokingly told the 518 grads as they assembled for the processional. And then he added, “We’re going to miss you. And we’re not kidding.”)

Of the Gustavus core values, it was community that provided the pedestal for the day’s senior send-off. Said Lily Benge-Briggs ’17 in her commencement speech: “In my happiest times of success and lowest times of grief and sorrow, my Gustavus community has been here for me.” Benge-Briggs urged the Class of 2017 to be there for everything and everyone: “Leave places and people better than we found them. Gustavus made me better than when it found me.”

Biology professor Pamela Kittleson, who was awarded the Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching at Commencement, also called out the power of the Gustavus community to work for and with each other, praising the “mutualism between Gustavus students and faculty,” and thanking the students, “for challenging us to hone our craft and bring
our best to you every day.”

Gustavus president Rebecca Bergman (proud mother of graduate Laura Bergman ’17) molded these multiple messages of community, courage, and learning into a message of action. “You are fully equipped with a liberal arts education that will be the foundation of your life,” Bergman told the Class of 2017. “Be purposeful about that life. Keep your head up. When you see something you love, grab that opportunity and run with it. Commit to being a person of action.

“Always, always, always do the right thing. Even when no one is looking, and especially when it is difficult.”

The graduating seniors of the Gustavus Choir sang the Remember song. (For your belong to GA College/and Gustavus belongs to you.) The band, led by graduating music ensemble members, struck up the Alma Mater and the Gustie Rouser. And Rev. Siri Erickson blessed the crowd, saying, “Let us be mindful that all we have achieved is made possible by a community of so many other people.”

And with that, the Class of 2017 was formally launched into their future.

After, graduates, faculty, staff, family, and friends gathered on Eckman Mall to celebrate the graduates’ years at Gustavus. “I can’t think of a better way to spend the day then on this beautiful campus celebrating Liv and her accomplishments,” said Caryn Peterson, mother to Olivia Peterson ’17. “The Gustavus community has helped her grow in tremendous ways over these last four years. We can’t wait to see what’s next!”

What’s next is a future of purposeful action, bolstered by the support of a wide network of Gustavus alums around the world. Because, notes new graduate Karolina Stark ’17, “Gustavus gets bigger after you graduate.”



Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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