Above: St. Catharine College President William D. Huston, center, addresses an overflow crowd of 1,400 during Commencement held in Lourdes Hall on May 14. A total of 122 graduates were conferred during the ceremony.
It was St. Catharine College history in the making Saturday morning as an overflow crowd of 1,400 packed Lourdes Gym to witness a record 122 graduates receive their diplomas. As if that wasn’t enough on this historic day, the college also presented a very special honor for the first time.
The ceremony started at 11 a.m. as the processional got under way with music provided by the Nelson County High School Band under the direction of Marc Monroe. Father Ben Brown led everyone in the invocation, followed by the National Anthem, performed by junior English major Catherine Bohn.
Dr. Maria Ciriello, O.P., with the Dominican Sisters of Peace, greeted the crowd and introduced SCC President William D. Huston.
“The class of 2011 is our biggest ever,” said Huston. “We’ve seen a 22-percent increase in our graduating class over last year. We’ve made tremendous strides over the past decade – from being a junior college, to starting our Bachelor programs six years ago, to being able to offer graduate degrees starting in our next academic year.”
President Huston then introduced the keynote speaker, the Honorable Elaine L. Chao.
“It is a privilege to be here with you, the St. Catharine College graduates of 2011, on this day which formally recognizes and commemorates your academic achievement,” Chao said. “You worked hard for it, it is yours forever and you should be very proud…Life, and careers, will not always go according to plan…Never forget this time in America and learn its lessons. And as important - be ever mindful that America has always, always come back from adversity and advanced to become stronger and more prosperous than ever. That’s because there is an indomitable spirit in this country. And there is an indomitable spirit here today, in St. Catharine’s Class of 2011…In this first year of the second decade of the twenty-first century, St. Catharine is sending you forth into a world marked by historic challenges, opportunity and potential. Embrace it with gusto, grace, purpose and an abundance of faith and good humor. Those last two, especially, will serve you well. Good luck and God bless.”
Next, Dr. Robert Slocum, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Dr. David Arnold, Dean of the School of professional Studies, and Dr. Harry Nickens, Dean of the School of Health and Human Sciences, presented the graduate candidates, who each made their way across the stage to receive their diplomas from President Huston. After making their way back to their respective spots, President Huston addressed the Class of 2011.
“Upon the authority of the Board of Trustees of St. Catharine College, I hereby confer upon you the degree which you have earned with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities which thereunto pertain," said Huston. “You may now move your tassels to the left, congratulations”
But the final degree to be presented on the day was history unto itself. President Huston called Secretary Chao back to the podium and bestowed upon her the first-ever honorary doctorate degree from St. Catharine College, through special arrangement by Dr. Don Giles, SCC’s Vice-President for Academic Affairs.
Above: St. Catharine College President William D. Huston, left, presents Elaine Chao with the first-ever honorary doctorate degree from SCC. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Labor from 2001-2009, was the keynote speaker for the college's 79th commencement exercise held May 14.
After closing remarks from President Huston, the new college graduates filed out of the gym ready to see the world from a whole new perspective.
After the ceremony, President Huston took Secretary Chao on a personal tour of the Richard S. Hamilton Health and Science Building.
“She said she wanted to see where the students studied,” added Huston. “We went to the third floor and toured the labs.”
After exiting the Hamilton Building, Chao noticed the Spalding Student and Community Center down the hill. President Huston told her that was where the reception was taking place. Despite having a 1 p.m. deadline to make another appointment later in the day, Chao made time to go to the reception and greeted guests and posed for pictures, extending her stay until 2 p.m.
“That was very thoughtful of her, that she was so caught up in the moment to extend her stay on campus,” Huston said.
When all was said and done after the nearly 70-minute ceremony, it was evident that an important chapter in St. Catharine College history had been closed, as the Class of 2011 made the transition from being students to alumni.