Commencement on the Hill

Graduation day at William Jewell College has been filled with traditions, special events and excitement for the span of the College’s history. However, the event is still wholly unique for each graduating class.

The events preceding commencement on Commencement Day are long-standing traditions at Jewell. The day begins with the Baccalaureate service in Gano Chapel. This service starts the day off with praise and honors the graduating class.

“The processional for Baccalaureate is much less formal than the one for the commencement ceremony, as grads pre-gather in the Union Atrium to form two lines with no specific line-up, so they can walk and sit with their friends within the large group. This inspirational service adds a spiritual tone to the day for those desiring to celebrate their faith on Commencement Day,” said Karen Weatherford, assistant to the registrar.

The service is followed by the open house at the President’s Home, Grand River Chapel, and the schoolhouse. The event is hosted by the Woman’s Committee of William Jewell College. Dr. and Mrs. Sallee are at the house to meet the friends and family of the graduates.

“While it is an opportunity for graduates and their families to see the entire home, it is, for the Sallees, an opportunity to meet the families of the graduating seniors,” said First Lady Mary Sallee.

The final walk around the Quad for the seniors is a relatively young part of the school’s history. The event mirrors the first walk around the Quad that each class completes during orientation. Sallee cites this as her favorite part of Commencement and said that her love for the event stems from its symbolism.

“It is also one moment when I wish I had an eidetic memory, that I could remember the expressions on the faces of current seniors on their first walk around the Quad,” said Sallee. “I know their first-year student faces were a reflection of the uncertainty they felt,  their worries about how they would fit in, what they would accomplish, who their friends would be, whether they would be ‘cool’ enough. On that final walk around the Quad, faces are a reflection of confidence, of success that for some has come by ‘walking through the fire’ of rigorous studies, pressure-filled timelines and disappointments.”

The commencement ceremony in the Mabee Centeris the main attraction of the day. The Class of 2015 is comprised of students eligible to graduate in December 2014 and May and July 2015, all of whom are permitted to walk at Commencement. Approximately 63 percent of the seniors this year spent all four years of their college careers at Jewell.

The Office of Career Development and Internships surveys the seniors each year about their plans following graduation, such as jobs accepted and admission into grad school. This year’s survey was not conducted in time for use in this article, but the office’s director, Marissa Bland, noted some trends over the years. She said that no particular major or field does better at attaining jobs than any other. Bland also reports that the overall trend at Jewell is that a “large majority of students” have jobs or plans to attend graduate school following their graduation from Jewell.

The nursing major holds the highest number of graduates this year. It is followed by business graduates, which includes the majors of economics, nonprofit leadership, business administration and accounting. Psychology is a popular major for the Class of 2015.

For this year’s graduating class, the inclusion of students graduating from the Master of Science in Education program is new, as it is the College’s first masters program. Nine students are expected to graduate with this degree in July and will be walking at Commencement. In August, when the students have successfully completed the program, there will be a special hooding ceremony held for them.

“I would say that my hope for this year’s graduating class is that they would stay in touch and let the people on the Hill that have been a part of their journey know to what this experience leads them,” said Sallee. “There is great reward and affirmation in hearing what those investments have led to, what opportunities have opened up and how the investment is being ‘paid forward’.”

Feature photo by Kyle Rivas. To see more, visit

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