Linfield College held Commencement exercises Sunday under a cloudless sky in the Oak Grove on its McMinnville campus, conferring Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees upon more than 640 students.
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.
Shouts of support rang through the Oak Grove as graduates received diplomas, a jubilant capstone to a whirlwind weekend of activities. The weekend events also in many ways capped President Thomas L. Hellie’s 12-year tenure leading the college; he retires June 30.
Friday evening, Linfield held its second-annual Latinx Senior Recognition Ceremony, organized by students. The ceremony was designed to honor Spanish-speaking and bilingual families, and to honor 23 Latinx graduating seniors. Speakers included Itzel Romero ’18, Cinthia Manuel ’05 and Sonia Ticas, professor of Spanish.
Speakers exhorted those in the room to keep connections vital and to support one another. “Never deny your roots,” Romero told the crowd at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Ticas added, “Keep the fire burning for your siblings, cousins and others who will now see in you a role model.”
Parents and families came from across the western United States and as far away as Guatemala to support the graduates. Organizer Claudia Herrara Torres ’18 said her parents and younger brother were there to celebrate her achievement. “For us,” she said, “it’s empowering to celebrate.”
Saturday morning, more than 100 students who completed requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the Linfield-Good Samaritan School of Nursing were presented with their nursing pins.
Michelle Dedeo, assistant professor of nursing, reminded students that they didn’t make it here alone. “Let’s take a few moments to offer deep gratitude to those who supported you,” she said. That support, she continued, would allow the graduates to foster resilience in themselves.
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.
At noon Saturday, students also organized the inaugural Black Excellence Celebration. Eight students were recognized at the event. Jade Everage ’18 joined the Black Student Union during her sophomore year and wanted to bring it fresh energy and focus.
After two years working with the club, she said she hopes the Black Student Union will continue to “expand its successes.”
“I hope to see it grow into an organization that has philanthropy, has its own mentorship program or even its own high school recruitment program for African-American students and other students of color,” she said.
Later Saturday, 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. Tenzin Yangchen ’18, the student body president during her senior year, included a reading from the Buddhist tradition as part of the ceremony.
The Baccalaureate address was given by the Rev. Erika Marksbury, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in McMinnville. Marksbury asked the students, “What makes you come alive? May you be blessed as you discover it. May you be blessed as you claim it.”
After the Baccalaureate, graduating students and their families went 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 walked the same road and the professors who guided them along the way.
Kailey Wright ’18 toasted the families of the graduating class, saying “you showed us unconditional love, even when we felt like complete failures.” Ashlyn Edmondo ’18 gave her thanks to the faculty: “If we did not have the power of a small college, we would not have had the same kind of support from faculty.”
President Hellie acknowledged his own transition during the Grad Finale. “I can’t imagine going out with a better group than the class of 2018,” he said.
Sunday, the normally serene Oak Grove was filled with families, friends and supporters of the class of 2018.
Tim Christensen, father of John Christensen ’18, said Commencement weekend brought up a lot of emotions and “gave me some perspective about what my own parents went through” when he was finishing college.
For Nicole Reynolds, mother of Tiana Reynolds ’18, Linfield is a family affair. She is married to Martin Reynolds ’95, and Nicole attended Linfield herself.
“It’s a great school,” she said as she surveyed the happy scene in the Oak Grove, noting that both she and her husband played volleyball for longtime coach Shane Kimura. Tiana’s grandparents were also in attendance and found the campus unchanged from a previous visit more than 20 years ago. This might not be the last Linfield graduation for them, however.
“My son just talked to the football coach here [Joseph Smith ’92], who went to school with my husband,” Nicole laughed. “We did the whole tour. He’s very excited.”
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.
The graduating class was addressed by Susan D. Hyde ’00, a professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley, who talked about the “soul-shaking” experience she had at Linfield.
She told the graduates that 18 years ago, when she was sitting where they sat on Sunday, she had no grand plan for her life. But, she said, the deep connections she had with fellow Linfield students and faculty helped her build the life she has.
Hyde told the graduates that “at some point, the rug will be pulled out from under you profoundly” and that “bending without breaking is a skill you will have to practice again and again.”
Student speaker Shelby Sweet ’18 echoed that when she said, “these are the times that have shaped us.”
“Be stubborn about your goals, but flexible about your methods,” she advised. But most importantly, she said, “We’ve learned that living good lives and being good people is just as important as being intelligent.”