Warm weather and cheerful faces welcomed Bluffton University students, alumni and friends to the institution’s annual May Day and commencement festivities, May 4-6, continuing the 97-year-old tradition and concluding the academic year with the 107th commencement ceremony, during which Bluffton’s graduating class of 302—its second largest—received diplomas.
As the afternoon sun blazed high in the sky on Sunday, Salzman Stadium filled with graduates’ families and friends wanting to see their loved ones cross the stage and receive their hard-earned diplomas. President James M. Harder and commencement speaker Edward Diller ’69 paid tribute to the 2007 baseball team for its extraordinary courage and poise in the midst of tragedy. The parents of senior Tim Berta (Ida, Mich.), were on hand to represent their son and received a lengthy standing ovation from the crowd. Berta, a student-coach for the Bluffton University baseball team, remains hospitalized after the March 2 bus accident.
During his address, Diller spoke specifically to those graduating, assuring them that they have been well prepared by Bluffton University to walk into their futures. “With the strong foundation that has been nurtured within you at this university, you have the confidence to stretch yourselves and the confidence to move through the anxiety caused by self-doubt, beyond the fear of failure and past the paralyzing grip of hopelessness,” he said. “In doing that, and in knowing that your ultimate calling is to play your role, however humble or however grand, in God’s universal kingdom, you will be free to use the gifts that God has given you, with power and with strength, in ways that will give meaning to your life, ways that will serve those around you and most certainly in ways that are now beyond your comprehension.”
Retiring faculty member Dr. Stanley Clemens was recognized for his 23 years of exemplary service to Bluffton and awarded faculty emeritus status. Clemens had previously been a mathematics professor for Bluffton University and chair of the mathematics department. In 1998, he accepted an invitation from then-president Lee Snyder to serve as vice president for advancement. Since 2005, Clemens has been serving as an assistant to the president for campaign planning, and has been an integral part of Bluffton’s current campaign planning.
Prior to commencement, graduating seniors and their families gathered for a baccalaureate service, which featured speeches by two graduating students, Hannah Kehr (Goshen, Ind.) and Jacob Slager (Hopedale, Ill.), as well as Dr. Perry Bush, professor of history and chair of the history and religion department. All speakers were chosen by the graduating class.
On Saturday, graduates, alumni and friends took in the annual Maypole dance, which has been part of Bluffton’s graduation weekend since 1910. Sixteen first-year students, wearing Germanic costumes, danced in pairs around the pole, weaving streamers together. The dance is symbolic of the weaving together of past, present and future; memories of the past, appreciation of the present and hope for the future are woven around the Maypole in a never-ending circle. A senior queen and king, elected by students, presided over the event, which recognized all graduating seniors. This year’s king and queen were Matthew Keeler (Bluffton, Ohio) and his wife Katie (Nussbaum) Keeler, originally from Dalton, Ohio.
After the ceremony, new graduates, their parents and alumni enjoyed reunion luncheons in Marbeck Center and under a tent on Centennial Hall lawn, with special recognition given to classes ending in “2” and “7.” The class of 1957 celebrated its 50th reunion on Friday evening and, as a class gift, donated $10,000 to upgrade the sound system in Founders Hall.
Other weekend activities included the spring musical, Little Shop of Horrors; the 28th annual four-mile May Day run/5K walk; the 40th annual juried student art show in Sauder Visual Arts Center; an honors recital by selected student performers; a Women’s Council Basket Sale; and a banquet for the graduates and their families, welcoming the graduates into the Bluffton University Alumni Association.
Reprinted courtesy of Bluffton University and Robert Stutzman, Bluffton University public relations officer.