Barry McNamara  |  Published May 16, 2021

A Feel-Good Commencement

‘Much needed’ outdoor ceremony caps Monmouth College experience for its Class of 2021.

CELEBRATE! After receiving last-minute instruction from Dean of the Faculty Mark Willhardt on the... CELEBRATE! After receiving last-minute instruction from Dean of the Faculty Mark Willhardt on the proper way to hold a streamer, the Class of 2021 bids a fond farewell to their time at Monmouth College.MONMOUTH, Ill. – At the conclusion of their freshman year, some members of the Monmouth College Class of 2021 saw that school year’s seniors walk across the Wallace Hall stage and receive their diplomas.

Those freshmen didn’t know it at the time, but the Class of 2018’s Commencement ceremony would be the College’s last on the Wallace Hall Plaza for a full three years – until their own ceremony Sunday on a pleasantly cool afternoon with peaks of sunshine. The 2019 ceremony was moved into the Huff Athletic Center because of inclement weather, while last year’s Commencement was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This was something I spoke loudly about at the first senior meeting we had,” said graduate Abigail Bourscheidt of Peoria, Illinois, one of 189 members of the Class of 2021 who proudly strode across the stage to receive their Monmouth College diploma from President Clarence R. Wyatt during the one-hour ceremony. “I’m very excited we were able to do it.”

The College awarded a total of 208 degrees at its 164th Commencement ceremony, which was seen by a crowd of about 1,100. The ceremony was livestreamed on Facebook.

Asked what she was thinking in the moments before she received her diploma, Bourscheidt replied, “Four years goes by fast.”

“This was much needed after a year like this. It was awesome to see all my classmates walk across the stage. I couldn’t help but keep smiling.” Zach Harris

“This was much needed after a year like this,” said Zach Harris of Mascoutah, Illinois. “It was awesome to see all my classmates walk across the stage. I couldn’t help but keep smiling.”

Four years ago, some of the Class of 2021 had participated in a high school graduation ceremony on Monmouth’s campus, including Hannah McVey of Monmouth.

“This was definitely super special,” she said. “A lot of my family graduated from Monmouth, and I’m glad I was able to walk across the stage like they have in the past.”

In his welcoming remarks, Wyatt said gazing upon the graduating class was a sight for sore eyes.

“This is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in some time,” he said. “This is what it’s all about.”

The ebbing pandemic

The assembled graduates and their guests was a signal that life is edging closer to a return to normal, but the ceremony still made a few concessions to the lingering pandemic – pre-recorded singing by the Monmouth Chorale, no recessional through a line of Monmouth faculty, and the absence of a keynote speaker.

But, as has been the custom at recent Commencement ceremonies for the College, the Class of 2021 heard from one of their own, Joe Doner of Arlington Heights, Illinois, who was this year’s Student Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois.

LINCOLN LAUREATE: Joe Doner spoke to his 2021 classmates about the challenges they'd overcome... LINCOLN LAUREATE: Joe Doner spoke to his 2021 classmates about the challenges they'd overcome and the torch that had been passed.Doner spoke to his classmates about the passing of the torch that is part of the Monmouth tradition, and also about traditions that were derailed when the pandemic hit during the second half of the class’ junior year.

“Each and every one of us endured a thousand obstacles,” he said. “Every lost ID card, every failed test, every Zoom class that we thought would never end, every Monmouth tradition that was canceled these past 14 months, every meal we had to pick up from the cafeteria and eat elsewhere – every barrier overcome served not only as a widening of our own character and competence, but the widening of Monmouth’s as well.”

“I look forward to walking into the blazing sunlight of our futures together.” Joe Doner

Completing that difficult journey has set the Class of 2021 up well for the journeys that lie ahead.

“I am honored to have been able to speak to you all today,” he said. “Your examples of perseverance have pushed me to persevere, the courage I’ve observed in you has increased my courage, and your dedication to success will forever prod me to seek success. I look forward to walking into the blazing sunlight of our futures together.”

The ceremony concluded with Dean of the Faculty Mark Willhardt offering one final piece of instruction to the Class of 2021 – the correct way to hold a streamer before launching it skyward. The red and white explosion capped a successful, feel-good event for the graduates and their families and friends.

“It was excellent,” said Director of Campus Events Ryan Doyle. “The weather was great, and last night’s Senior Send-Off went off without a hitch. It really all went perfectly, and the streamers at the end was a great idea.”

Honors and announcements

Thirteen members of the Class of 2021 graduated summa cum laude. Those students included:

Mamie Ambrosch of Metamora, Illinois; Kensey Arlt of Wichita, Kansas; Savannah Ball of East Peoria, Illinois; Seth Croslow of Lawrenceville, Illinois; Megan Davis of Chandler, Arizona; Seth Foster of Palmer, Illinois; Will Fox of Hamilton, Illinois; Gavin Gard of Danville, Illinois; Cynthia Ladner of Galesburg, Illinois; Ashlyn Maher of Brimfield, Illinois; Kieran Marshall of Melbourne, Australia; Renee Rude of Washington, Illinois; and Julia Sterr of Clinton, Illinois.

Faculty promotions were also announced. Promoted to full professor were Tim Pahel (music) and Brad Sturgeon (chemistry). Receiving tenure and promotions to associate professor were Stephanie Baugh (art), Vanessa Campagna (theatre), Michael Nelson (political science) and Michael Prinsell (chemistry).

Also announced were recipients of two of the College’s three Hatch Awards for Academic Excellence. Tim Tibbetts received the Hatch Award for service, while the Hatch Award for scholarship was shared by Francisco Ángeles and Janis Wunderlich.

The College also recognized four faculty members who retired at the end of the academic year: Ken Cramer (28 years in biology), Farhat Haq (34 years in political science), Judi Kessler (20 years in sociology) and Carolyn Suda (35 years in music).


See More …

Check out more than 1,700 pictures from 2021 Commencement activities and events on the College’s Flickr page.

Next Stop for Graduates:

Here’s to the Class of 2021:

Watch Baccalaureate and Honor Walk:

Back to News & Events

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