Father and son march at Linfield College commencement

Kent Van Cleave ’12 had a special visitor when he recently graduated from Linfield.

His father, Al Van Cleave ’53, also graduated from Linfield and was invited back to his alma mater as a Golden Grad.  Fifty-nine years after Al took his commencement walk in the Linfield Oak Grove, he marched again, this time with his son.

“It’s never too late to finish your degree,” says Kent, who now works at Walla Walla Community College in a management role with the Information Center.

He attended Linfield College in the 1970s, and again in the ‘90s, returning three years ago to finish his bachelor’s degree through the Linfield’s Adult Degree Program. Kent credits his father with encouraging him to complete his degree, and Linfield’s online courses made degree completion possible.

Linfield College’s home campus in McMinnville, Ore., holds special significance for the Van Cleave family.

Overlooking the commencement green is Pioneer Hall, built in 1882. The building is emblematic of Linfield’s pioneer heritage. In the 1940s, Kent’s grandfather, Carl Buebke, worked on the building, doing structural steel work. He told his daughter Carol about the beautiful campus and she enrolled at Linfield.

Al Van Cleave lived in Pioneer Hall as a Linfield student, and met his wife Carol at the school. Their son Kent was born the year his father graduated.

Al recalls that in the 1950s after college football games, he and classmates would climb up into the Pioneer Hall cupola and ring the bell, “both in victory and in defeat.”

When Kent enrolled as a theatre major, the campus theatre was located in Pioneer Hall, and he spent most days and many nights there, just as his father had done.

Kent and Al both graduated with degrees in business. Al pursued a long career in the purchasing field, in the northwest and in the Midwestern states.