Wilson College holds 134th commencement

May 17, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - After the graduation ceremony ended Sunday afternoon, Wilson College's class of 2004 broke up into small knots of families, friends and faculty for more intimate rite-of-passage celebrations.

"It taught me how to trust myself to make major decisions in my life," Billie Jo Bird of State College, Pa., said of her four years at Wilson. Wilson suited her needs as she pursued a bachelor's degree in veterinary medical technology.

"I wanted a small school. I grew up around Penn State and I loved it, but I wanted something different," she said.


"One word. Independence," Nicole Starr of Columbia, Pa., said in summing up her college years.

"You learn to become your own person here, but you're part of the community," said Starr, who had traded her mortarboard for her freshman beanie.

"We call them 'dinks,'" she said of the caps. Starr graduated in December with a degree in equestrian studies and is working at a thoroughbred farm, but returned to "walk with my class" for the 134th annual commencement.

Eighty-nine students received their bachelor's degrees, 21 more received associate's degrees and 62 others received their teaching certificates.

Amber Murray of Emporium, Pa., looked at schools as far away as Colorado to pursue a degree in veterinary medical technology, but found what she wanted in Wilson's "personalized touch." Her next step is to work, then try to gain admission to a veterinary school.

"I'm hoping to find another Wilson, but I don't think that's possible," she said.

"She really grew in four years, which is all a parent wants," said her father, Erwin Murray.

"When I first came here, I felt I knew who I was and where I was going," Johanna Appel, a 2004 graduate of Wilson's College for Continuing Education, told the audience of several hundred graduates and guests.

Instead, she found herself changed by Wilson, coming back immediately after getting an associate's degree in veterinary medical technology in 2001 to begin work on a bachelor's degree in business management.

College had gone from being a means to an end to becoming "a means to a means," Appel said.

Tracy Spangler, 2004 class president for the College for Women, likened herself and other classmates to blank T-shirts that were transformed by their experiences into a tie-dyed rainbow of color.

"They have bled and mixed and created more colors than we could have imagined as freshmen," she said.

Life at Wilson taught Joan M. Thuebel, class of 1952, to face and overcome her fears and embrace opportunities. Thuebel, who received an honorary degree and gave the commencement address, became one of the first female executives with AT&T and continues to travel the world as an Earthwatch volunteer dedicated to preserving endangered species.

"When you leave here, don't put your life on cruise control," she told the graduates. Thuebel said the graduates needed "the ability to take control and the passion to give back."

As the class of 2004 filed past Wilson College President Lorna Duphiney Edmundson to receive their diplomas, each handed her a piece of a puzzle.

Spangler earlier hinted that the puzzle pieces had something to do with a fund-raiser in which the college president participated. Bird later said it showed the college president kissing a cow as part of a fund-raising gimmick.

"You always were an inventive and creative group of people," Edmundson said.

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