Linfield’s Oak Grove was turned into Commencement Green on Sunday, echoing with exuberant cheers, inspired music and more than a few joyful tears during May 26 graduation exercises on the McMinnville campus. The college conferred Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees upon 610 students.
President Miles K. Davis presided over the festivities, taking part in his first Commencement since joining the college last summer. Graduates decorated their mortarboards and robes with leis, flowers, stoles proclaiming their heritage and athletic participation, honor cords and testimonials to families and friends, thousands of whom attended the celebration.
William Shannon ’19 is following in the footsteps of a long line of Wildcats. At least eight of his family members have attended Linfield, including parents, aunts and uncles.
“I think it’s great that I get to experience college the same way my mom and dad did, and it’s cool for my relatives to share their experiences with me,” said Shannon, who next plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics at Texas A&M.
The ceremony was a jubilant capstone to a whirlwind weekend of activities.
Latinx Senior Recognition
Friday evening, Linfield held its third-annual Latinx Senior Recognition Ceremony, organized by students. The ceremony, honoring Spanish-speaking and bilingual families, was conducted in Spanish, with a live English simultaneous interpretation service. Some 300 attended at McMinnville’s Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, including students, faculty, staff, trustees, parents, children, abuelos and alumni.
Speakers reminded the audience that it’s easy to get lost in the educational system and that support comes in many forms. Faculty, beyond being teachers, become family.
Diana Vazquez Duque ’19 asked her mother to stand and told her, “I will spend my entire life trying to show you how much I appreciate you.”
Other speakers included Linfield Trustee Leda Garside, Araceli Cruz ’09, Beatriz Rendon Bautista ’18 and Gerardo Ochoa, Linfield’s special assistant to the president and director of community relations.
On Saturday, six gatherings celebrated graduates and their achievements – the School of Nursing’s pinning ceremony, the second-annual Black Excellence Celebration, Athletics Ceremony, Senior Awards, Baccalaureate and Grad Finale.
In his keynote address, Paul Smith, associate dean of nursing, held up “survival kit” objects including a bungee cord, eraser, marbles and q-tips to remind students to be flexible, to continue to learn, to find balance and to embrace feedback, among other advice.
Britta Buchstaber ‘19 also had words of advice for her classmates. “Your light will bring comfort and hope to those in need,” she said. “Trust your light.”
The pinning ceremony represents the culmination of a nurse’s education and signifies that he or she is accepted into the 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.
Saturday evening, Linfield held its annual Baccalaureate, a time of worship for members of the graduating class.
Chaplain David L. Massey told the students and families gathered in Ted Wilson Gymnasium that the Baccalaureate at Linfield is ordered according to the worship patterns and traditions within Protestantism, but that the college strives to touch the universal themes of common humanity that can be found in all the world’s great religions.
Tiffany Wall ’19 provided the senior prayer, while Jennifer Moranchel ’19 read from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Kalkidan Crapper ’19 introduced Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee, senior servant for the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, who provided the Baccalaureate address, “#ChangeTheNarrative.”
Following the Baccalaureate ceremony, more than 500 graduates and their families celebrated the transition from student to alumnus at Grad Finale in Dillin Hall. Brittany Seyl ’19 presented a poem written for her classmates, “An Ode to May 26th,” and seniors toasted those who provided support during their college experience. Nathan Saragoza ’19 toasted family and friends, Heather McNutt-Kaestner ’19 honored faculty and staff, and Kainoa Cuttitta ’19 recognized her classmates.
On Sunday, families, friends and supporters of the class of 2019 filled the Oak Grove. From their seats, they raised colorful signs of encouragement and carried flowers to bestow upon their graduates.
In an effort to ensure all families would be able to celebrate their graduates, Linfield had American Sign Language translators and offered headsets and simultaneous translation services for Spanish speakers.
During the ceremony, 17 faculty were honored with emeritus status. The audience erupted with a standing ovation following a performance of “Rise Up” by Not Your Forte, Linfield’s student a cappella group.
Associate Justice Adrienne Nelson, the first African-American judge appointed to Oregon’s Supreme Court, addressed the graduating class, encouraging them to never let others define them.
“Ignore the noise of others’ assumptions and opinions,” she said. “Instead, listen to your inner voice and define yourself. You decide what you think you can achieve, set a goal and then work the plan to achieve those goals.
“It is critical to continue to learn life lessons and apply them in your daily sphere of influence,” she added.
Kristen (Teel) Taylor ’98, chair of the Alumni Leadership Council, congratulated students and encouraged them to stay connected to the college – whether serving on a panel, making a donation or cheering on a sports team.
“Let the gifts Linfield has given you inspire you to be a lifelong giver,” she said. “And may the degree you’ve worked so hard to earn, be only the first of your many accomplishments.”
Student speaker Diana Vazquez Duque ’19 imparted two lessons she learned during her time at Linfield – the power of failure and the importance of remembering where you come from.
“We’ve all gained experiences at Linfield that have prepared us to navigate life after graduation,” she said. “The power of failure is the power of getting to know yourself. Every time you fail, you become better than before. Today is evidence of that. No one here leaves Linfield the same person they were when they first arrived.”