Class of 2020 celebrates long-overdue Commencement

It was a long time coming. A few dozen members of the Class of 2020 came back together Sunday, Aug. 8, for an eagerly anticipated and long-overdue celebration of their graduation from Ripon College.

Their original Commencement ceremony was cancelled in May 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rainy conditions necessitated moving the ceremony into the intimate setting of Great Hall, but the usual joy and pride abounded among graduates, families, faculty and staff. Of the 136 members of the Class of 2020, 38 walked the stage.

Sunday also marked the final day of a delayed Alumni Weekend, celebrating class reunions from the cancelled 2020 Alumni Weekend and the 2021 Alumni Weekend.

The overriding message of the various speakers was one of resiliency and the added skills of adaptability these graduates gained because of the challenges the pandemic forced on them in their final weeks as Ripon College students.

Some highlights:

  • Tom Abendroth ’81, chairman of the Ripon College Board of Trustees: “We are here today to celebrate you. … You pivoted to a whole new way of operating, adapting and learning new skills, applying yourselves in new ways. This won’t be the last time (you will use these skills in your life.) I’m confident you’ll do it well.”
  • Kimberly M. Larson ’08, president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors: She welcomed the graduates to the roster of nearly 12,000 Ripon alumni worldwide. “The Class of 2020 has endured. Even though your path may have been unexpected, your Ripon College experiences have carried you all through.”
  • Adam Wronski ’20, class agent: He quoted from the wonderfully poetic speech of Haley M. Stowell ’20, elected as the Class Speaker for the original ceremony. Related to that ceremony’s theme of “Wisconsin Music: Riffs from the Heartland,” Stowell wrote: “We all have our own Ripon song only we can hear.” Wronski added, “Despite all the unknowns, we persevered and maintained a sense of community. Our Ripon songs (are) written. It is now our task to play them for the world.”
  • Kent E. Timm ’81, Commencement speaker and 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient: “We are reminded how much Ripon has done for us over the decades. … You’re a very, very special class. You’ve not only endured, but a lot of you have thrived. Because of that (pandemic) experience, you are so much better prepared. Where you can go is virtually limitless.“Your experience is unprecedented. You don’t know where you’re going to go, but you’re very well prepared. Ripon College is responsible for giving me the foundation that has led me to all my experiences. The College will be here for you as long as it exists. You’re in a position to thrive, wherever you go and whatever challenges and opportunities you face.”
  • President Zach Messitte: “Live in the moment, in the present. (Focus on) the joy of this day of being together in a group. … Treat people with respect today and every day. Most individuals are doing their best to do what is right. To make people happy is one of the greatest things you’ll ever do. There is much to be happy about today.”

You can watch the 2020 Commencement ceremony in its entirety on YouTube, and photo galleries from the event are available on the College’s Facebook page.

(Photo: Mitra Fadai Kermani and Adam Wronski, Alumni Association Senior Award recipients)

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