Linfield College held its Commencement exercises Sunday morning under a beautiful, sun-filled sky with a celebration and diploma ceremony in the Oak Grove on its McMinnville campus. Graduates festooned their mortarboards and robes with leis, stethoscopes, honor cords, stoles proclaiming their heritage and testimonials to families and friends.
More than 650 students received degrees, following a weekend of activities, honors and traditions both old and new. “At Linfield, we often talk about our sense of community,” said President Thomas L. Hellie at the beginning of the weekend, “and I think our community is revealed when we get together to celebrate our students.”
Friday night, Linfield held its first Latinx Senior Recognition ceremony at the Falls Event Center in McMinnville. It was designed, Gerardo Ochoa, assistant dean for diversity and community partnerships, said, to honor Spanish-speaking families. Nearly two dozen students were honored at the ceremony. Speakers included Giselle Naranjo-Nelson ’17, parent Gabriela Horta-Gomez, and Linfield College Trustee Leda Garside.
The event was conceived and organized by students. Naranjo-Nelson, one of the organizers, said she wanted her family “to feel a part of the community. I’m the first one in my family to go to college, and that’s why they came here [from Oaxaca, Mexico]—for opportunities like this.”
Ochoa added, “We need to do a good job of celebrating the community. I hope that this continues as a tradition.”
On Saturday morning, 99 students who completed requirements for a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree from the Linfield-Good Samaritan School of Nursing were presented with their nursing pins.
Dr. Paul Smith, assistant professor of nursing, was selected by the students to be their faculty speaker. He reminded the nursing students that “there is no way to know everything on your first day. Learning doesn’t stop once you leave Linfield.”
He advised students to keep up their strong spirit of inquiry, and to reach out to fellow Linfield nurses and to others in the profession. “You are not in this alone,” he said. “Embrace the fact you are leaders!”
The pinning ceremony represents the culmination of a nurse’s education and signifies that he or she is accepted into the nursing profession. For the students who completed the RN-to-BSN program, it is a chance to re-welcome them to nursing. Each school of nursing has a unique pin.
On Saturday evening, Linfield held its annual Baccalaureate, a time of worship for members of the graduating class prior to Commencement. While the Baccalaureate at Linfield is ordered according to the worship patterns and traditions within Protestantism, the college strives to touch the universal themes of common humanity that can be found in all the world’s great religions.
In his opening remarks, President Hellie asked for a moment of silence in honor of Parker Archie Moore, “who should have been here in his cap and gown, but whose life ended far too soon.”
Moore, a Linfield business management major and a linebacker for the Wildcats football team, was killed in 2014 after being attacked off-campus. This would have been his graduation year.
The Baccalaureate address was given by the Rev. Lynne Smouse Lopez, the pastor of the Ainsworth United Church of Christ in Portland since 1996. “I am here to remind you about what a blessing you have been given,” she told the seniors. “Yes, you worked hard for it, but to receive an education, a good education, is a gift that not everyone is blessed to receive.” She leaned forward. “Now what are you going to do with it?”
“We are all tied together,” she said. “You are bound up with humanity across the world… many of you know this already. You already see the need to connect globally. That this world is one world, and we are all part of one, great human family.”
After the Baccalaureate, graduating students and their families made their way to Dillin Hall for the Grad Finale, a chance for graduating seniors and their families to celebrate the transition from student to alumnus. Seniors toasted the parents and family members who supported them during college, the classmates who shared the journey and the professors who mentored them along the way.
As Mikayla Frei ’17 said in her toast, “The people we have become wouldn’t have been possible without the love of our family and friends.” Nathan Pellatz ’17 included the faculty in that supportive group, acknowledging that over four years, the faculty were “more than just professors — they became family.”
Sunday morning, the Linfield campus was full of family, friends and those ready to cheer on the graduating class of 2017.
“I’m so excited!” said Denise Fidel, mother of Katherine Fidel ’17. Katherine is her second daughter to graduate from Linfield. “I had a friend ask me, ‘Isn’t this bittersweet?’ But it’s not bittersweet, just sweet. I’m so proud!”
To ensure all families would be able to celebrate their graduates, Linfield had American Sign Language translators and also offered headsets and simultaneous translation services for Spanish speakers.
For some, Commencement is a family affair. Weston Heringer Jr. ’66 is one of Linfield’s “Golden Grads,” marched with his granddaughter, Abigail Heringer ’17. Not only did grandfather and granddaughter graduate from Linfield, so did his brother-in-law, as well as his wife’s parents, aunt and uncle. Weston asked his granddaughter before he committed to being a part of the Commencement ceremony.
“I thought it’d be kind of fun, but I asked her first. I didn’t want to intrude on her day,” he said.
The graduating class was addressed by Su-Yen Wong ’89, CEO of the Human Capital Leadership Institute in Singapore. “The world which awaits you demands that you reinvent yourself constantly,” she advised. “You are living in an age of disruption.”
Wong told the graduates that, as the world was in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, “work as we know it continues to shift,” but “creation and disruption” are twin forces. She also said that Linfield students were uniquely prepared to take on a world that “will feel like… a roller coaster on steroids.”
“Linfield gave me a solid foundation for life,” she said. A Linfield education readied students for change, to adapt and to be ready for growth in career and outlook. Again and again, she exhorted the graduates: “Be curious.”
Sara Gómez Horta ’17 echoed this mantra as she addressed her classmates. “In a few moments we will all receive our degrees, degrees that come from a stellar private liberal arts college where we were taught how to be lifelong learners and how to think critically,” she said. “With this great privilege, comes a great responsibility. To get involved in your communities, to engage politically, and to give back.”
She said, “There is no such thing as the right timing, or a moment where you’ll feel 100% ready to do anything. But what there is, is this: having the ganas, the desire and strength to do as Gina Rodriquez says, [to] ‘Work hard. [to] Be so good they can’t ignore you. [to] Keep to your morals and stick to your integrity.’”
“And to do this,” she concluded, “you don’t have to wait a single day.”