When a rare May 3 snowfall caused the Missouri Valley College Commencement ceremony to be moved inside Burns gym, that was just the start of the unique, memorable moments for the graduating Class of 2013.
Memorable moments included a generous Commencement speaker who gave books and knew first-hand how MVC had changed over the years, the first graduates of the MVC master’s program, the first graduates of the Nursing major, and even a surprise marriage proposal.
Commencement speaker Dr. Hiram Davis has had a long career in higher education and had worked as a senior adviser for the Library of Congress and as dean of California Polytechnic State University.
Davis gave to every MVC graduate a copy of the book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey. Davis stressed advice from the Covey book, such as valuing and respecting people, seeking to first understand and then to be understood, and combining the strengths of people into positive teamwork.
Davis was the first African American student to live on the MVC campus in 1962 and the second to play on the football team that was coached by Volney Ashford.
Davis praised MVC for its advancement in diversity, noting the racial make-up of the student population and the large number of countries that international students currently represent. He said, in comparison, in looking back at an MVC yearbook in his time, there was only one international student at the college.
Davis said MVC Professor John McCallum was his mentor and he owed his library career to McCallum’s guidance. He said that his brother and sister-in-law also graduated from MVC.
In preparing for his Commencement address, Davis had queried MVC students for opinions and advice. He learned that their major concerns and issues were what lies ahead, such as finding a job, travel, and other aspects of life. One of the pieces of advice for the speech from the responding students was, “Keep it short,” he said.
He said students should envision their lives in a holistic way. “It takes time, work, and thought.” He said they should see a glass half-full, be confident, and stay positive. Reputation is important, he said, as well as ethical conduct, not just ethical thought. Davis ended with the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken.” He said that the Class of 2013 should go forward. “Enjoy your life.”
Ralitsa Gospodinova, one of the four graduates in the first class of master’s degree recipients in MVC history, spoke to the Class of 2013, saying she came from Bulgaria to play soccer and major in Mass Communication. “It has been a pleasure to be a part of the Valley family,” she said. Gospodinova said, “We should be proud of a place constantly changing and improving.”
Other Commencement participants were President Bonnie Humphrey; MVC Board Chairman Gary Ford; Alumni President Tom Hayob; Sharon Weiser, vice president of Academic Affairs; Registrar Marsha Lashley; and the Rev. Pam Sebastian, the MVC chaplain.
As there was no Baccalaureate ceremony this year, Sebastian provided a spiritual message as part of Commencement. Sebastian said it was “deeply moving” to see the seniors in their caps and gowns. “This day is all about hope and challenge, and a great measure of relief.” Sebastian, quoting scripture, encouraged graduates to love, to endure, and to be gentle.
President Humphrey noted the recent awards to students and faculty. Biology Assistant
Professor Waylon Hiler was the recipient of the John McCallum Excellence in Teaching award; Tim Schulte, director of Maintenance, was the recipient of the President’s Staff Excellent award; Sharon Hoeflicker, executive assistant for the vice president of Academic Affairs, was inducted into the Valley Women’s hall of Fame; Rachel Gonzalez, a graduating senior, was named Outstanding Woman by the Valley Women’s organization; and Carnekia Burnett, who will be a senior this coming college year, received the Valley Women’s scholarship.
At the ceremony, the Charles L. Bacon Distinguished Service awards were presented to graduating seniors Natalie Cotto—Garcia and Samuel Spurgin.
Then 233 graduates received their degrees, some with honors.
At the end of the ceremony, graduate Phoenix Harrison was allowed to take the podium for a special announcement. In a surprising moment, Harrison proposed marriage to his girlfriend, Desirae Parker, who was also a new graduate of the Class of 2013. Harrison then rushed to her and knelt, presenting a ring. Parker said “yes” and they kissed as the rest of the Class of 2013 and the large crowd in Burns gym cheered with surprise and delight.
The Commencement ceremony was filmed for live-streaming online and to the theater and cafeteria for family and friends to watch. The film crew was Chaz Maddi, instructor of Mass Communication TV broadcast courses, and Mass Communication students Aki Nagasaka and Tyrone Ritter.