SMWC 180th Commencement: “It’s a memory that we’ll share together.”
December 17th, 2016 | SMWC
Aside from donning the academic regalia – cap, gown and hood – the new graduates of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) also wore bright smiles and a sense of pride during the 180th commencement ceremony on Saturday at Hamilton Arena in the Knoerle Center.
Seventy-one campus, online and graduate students from 19 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and even from Hong Kong received their degree from SMWC President Dottie King, Ph.D. during the ceremony and officially joined the vast worldwide network of accomplished SMWC alumni.
For two of the graduates, campus graphic design major Elizabeth Behringer and Woods Online human resources management major Lisa Behringer, this commencement was very special. The mother-daughter duo graduated together. Sharing a graduation is a unique experience they will always cherish, Lisa Behringer said.
“It’s not just another graduation. It’s a memory that we’ll share together,” she said.
At the event, Lisa Behringer received the Undergraduate Alumni Leadership and Service Award.
Over the last few years, Behringer said she not only gained knowledge and skills necessary to advance her career but also discovered much about herself. Success in the Woods Online program, she said, required discipline because she had to juggle other responsibilities alongside her studies.
Born and raised in West Terre Haute, Lisa Behringer, currently an administrative assistant for operations at the College, was hired in 2003. She started Woods Online in 2004 when Elizabeth was in 4th grade.
Because of her mom’s involvement with the College, Elizabeth said she practically “grew up” at The Woods. So when it was time to go to College, the choice was clear. After commencement, she’s leaving a place she calls “home” an empowered woman who is not afraid to use her voice, she said.
The Behringers said they have a close relationship. This closeness was nurtured during their time at The Woods. They’ve enjoyed lunch together every day for the last four years and even had a class together. “It bonded us,” Lisa Behringer said.
Another mother-daughter team now also shares a Woods legacy. Carrie Andrews, a 2013 graduate of the Woods Online program, watched proudly as her daughter, Felica, graduated from the same program. Both majored in psychology.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy,” Felica, 28, said. She plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps of working in community mental health.
“With endings come new beginnings.”
Cheers and applause filled the arena as proud family members, friends and mentors showed their support of the graduates. Of the 71 conferred degrees, 25 were bachelor’s and 46 were master’s degrees in Art Therapy, Music Therapy and Leadership Development.
The commencement speaker, Sharon Boyle, associate professor of music therapy and the recipient of the 2016 Sister Mary Joseph Pomeroy Award for Faculty Excellence for Teaching, addressed the graduates with passion and sincerity. She encouraged them to savor the moment and look forward to a bright future.
“You see, we all have those moments in our lives when we have two choices: We can choose to stand still and stay with the status quo, or we can choose to leap, and take the opportunity when it comes our way. Or we create the opportunity for ourselves. You all took the leap,” she said.
“With endings come new beginnings. It can be overwhelming, but also exciting, bringing new challenges because of your own new growth.”
“I hope you will take all you have learned and apply it to encourage change in others and the world around you.”
Other special awards were presented during commencement to recognize exceptional service and leadership at the College.
Emilee Roberts of West Terre Haute was the recipient of the Graduate Alumni Leadership and Service Award. The program director of non-profit organization Girls Inc was described during the ceremony as an exemplary example of leadership and demonstrated community service. In her job, she has the privilege to help girls become their best.
“The lessons she learned from attending the Master of Leadership Development program have had an immediate impact on her career and volunteer work,” said award presenter, Lynn Morales ’01, vice-president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. Roberts intends to use her leadership skills to encourage and motivate others to become leaders.
The Aspire Higher award, given by the president to a community leader who is making a difference at The Woods and the world, was given to Trustee Emeritus Jerry Hellman.
Described as a consummate volunteer, idea generator, and donor, Hellman in 2014 led an effort to raise $1 million from the Class of 1964 on its 50th Reunion. He served nine years on the SMWC Board of Trustees, retiring as an emeritus board member in 2014. He and his wife, Mary Ann ’64, now serve as members of the Aspire Higher Campaign Cabinet and are members of the Visionary Cumulative Gift Society and the Legacy Planned Gift Guild.
In recent years, he has been making contributions to the lives of young people abroad. He established a high school in Zambia, a landlocked country in southern Africa. This year, Hellman made it possible for a graduate of the school, Sue Fanizani, to attend SMWC. She is the first of the school’s graduates to attend college abroad.
Aspiring higher is at Hellmann’s very essence, President King said during the presentation.