Blackburn's 148th commencement emotional

Blackburn’s 148th commencement emotional

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From Blackburn College Choir’s rendition of “For Good” from Wicked to the moving speeches at the honorary degree portion of the ceremony, Blackburn’s 148th commencement was nothing short of emotionally charged.

President John Comerford opened the occasion by recognizing those who were retiring this year. The faculty and staff included in this address were history department chair Jan Zimmerman, who served the campus for 42 years; business department chair Bob Schweikle, who served the campus for 18 years; and Vice President and Dean of Students Heidi Heinz, who served the campus for 34 years.

Senior class president Veronica Milligan  took the floor and thanked everyone who was able to attend the ceremony as well as those who had provided their support but could not attend. “It’s been an exciting four years or three or maybe five. However you may have arrived here, you made it. Through struggle, hardship, heartbreak and finals, today, we honor those accomplishments as a class together,” she said.

Milligan described what community meant to her after attending the college; she noted the friendly atmosphere of the campus and how it resonated. Her advice to the class was as follows: “Wherever you go, keep Blackburn in your heart and remember what it feels like to be a part of a community.”

After Milligan’s senior class greetings, Comerford readdressed the audience and said William Jewell, class of 1957 alumus and emeriti trustee, was scheduled to speak  but had fallen ill beforehand. Therefore, Comerford delivered the commencement address.

Freedom of speech was the main focus of Comerford’s words. He gave examples of how some speakers at other colleges had been booed off stage or were blatantly disrespected. “At the core of the college experience should be an open exploration of new ideas and new thoughts,” he said. “It is not a prescribed process where we say, ‘Here is what to think.’” He encouraged graduates to go into the world with open minds.

Awards were presented as follows:

Bierd Senior Honor Prize, Kaitlyn Pugh; Humanities Prize, Brandon Secrist; Baird-Ziegler Prize, Ethan Klaffer; Wray Business Administration Award, Alexis Platto; Allison Economic Award, Brandon Secrist; Samuels-Werner Biology Prize, Kaitlyn Pugh; Computer Science Prize, Amanda Carroll; Political Science Prize, Margaret Anderson; Virgil G. Bretthauer Mathematics Award, Amanda Carroll; Elizabeth Wright Steidley Prize, Jacob Webb; Asbury Journalism Prize, Patrick Benedict; Stoddard Prize, Sara Lewis; Anna Deschu Prize in Elementary Education, Erin Huff; Demuzio Award in Leadership Studies, Anneliese Darow; and Demuzio Award in Education, Ethan Klaffer.

English and communications professor Natasha Casey was presented the Outstanding Teacher and Campus Leader Award for  her contributions to Blackburn.

Diplomas were presented to the following students, with three asterisks indicating summa cum laude, two meaning magna cum laude and one signifying cum laude: Dylan H. Adkins, Ross E. Albert***, Ashley N. Alexander**, Danielle L. Anderson, Margaret J. Anderson, Gabrielle M. Anglin***, Natasha P. Anthony, Scott M. Armstrong*, Christian M. Bailey, Markus L. Beeman, Patrick S. Benedict, Belinda Boamah, Nicole E. Bonnell, Gretchen N. Boucher*, Michael G. Bretscher, Andrew R. Bristow, Amanda M. Carroll***, Anneliese K. Darow***, Ashlea N. Doersam, Jake J. Elmore, John E. Esparza, Robert H. Fagg, Patterson B. Friese, Karson M. Gragert**, Adriana S. Hambrick, Chad M. Harrison, Christine A. Hobbs, Shelby L. Holybee, Erin E. Huff*, Kayla N. Jarman**, Nate E. Kinnison***, Brooke K. Kinroth***, Andrew C. Kirby, Austin N. A. Kirby, Kevin R. Kirby*, Ethan M. Klaffer***, Sara M. Lewis**, Tracy L. Lindgens*** (salutatorian), Marlee L. Lindstrom**, Caleb S. Long, Kevin S. Loveless*, Jarrett Luckett*, Jacob Maestranzi, Taylor K. Mayberry**, Alexis J. Mayes, Kayla S. Meints*, Veronica D. Milligan**, Steven D. Mitchell, Tyler P. Moore, Josue T. Muepu, Herve G. Munyakazi, Edia Mushundusi, Alexander T. Myrick, Luiza A. Myslinska*, Meghan K. Naugle, Daniel C. Nguepnang, Jessica A. Paulen, Katherine A. Payne***, Mackenzie E. Pesavento, Matthew C. Pfannenstiel, Alexis N. Platto**, Kaitlyn N. Pugh*** (valedictorian), Jordan L. Range, Joseph W. Reid, Bryan K. Roberts, Brooklyne J. Ruckman, Brandon S. Secrist***, Breannea M. Smith, Faydra B. Sommer, Ashley M. Spears, Rebecca B. Sprinkel, Emily E. Steward, Christopher O. Stone, Jessica J. Storck*, Joseph A. Szerletich, Joshua D. Thompson, Keishawnda K. S. Thompson, Meghan E. Ude, Conor J. Vesper, Eric D. Walsh, Jacob C. Webb, Jacob R. West**, Keragan E. White, DeArryka C. Williams, Michael R. Williams, James D. Zeitler, Victoria S. Zimmerman and Zachary A. Zurawski.


Graduates stand and applaud after classmate Conor Vesper, who died in May 2015, received an honorary diploma. Pictured in the front row from left to right are Ashlea Doersam, Jake Elmore and John Esparza. In the second row from left to right are Ethan Klaffer and Sara Lewis. In the back row from left to right are Daniel Nguepnang and Joshua Thompson.