Washington University in St. Louis celebrated its 160th debut not once, but eight times on Thursday, May 20 and Friday, May 21. The Record kept a journal of the day’s events and stories, including three alumni who competed at Francis Olympic Field and returned to watch their children graduate; five Olin student-athletes on their way to the NCAA Division III baseball championships; and a very elated Chancellor, delighted to lead his first launch in person. The university is doing everything again when the class of 2020 returns for three ceremonies on Sunday, May 30.
7:45 a.m. Thursday, May 20
Chancellor Andrew D. Martin arrives at the Olympic Rings Sculpture to lead students from the McKelvey School of Engineering to historic Francis Olympic Field for the first of eight launch ceremonies. Dressed in all his attire on an already hot morning, Martin is ready for a two-day marathon of speeches, cheers, and mortar boards thrown.
“We’re going all-in for my first in-person launch – eight this week and three next week for the 2020 class,” Martin said.
A year ago, which should have been the day it started, Martin walked through an empty campus and felt sadness for students whose college careers had been cut short by the deadly coronavirus and for parents, faculty and the staff who supported them along the way.
“Today is totally different,” said Martin. “We are seeing smiles on this campus for the first time in a long time. This marks the closure for a really sad time for our university. We can celebrate in person thanks to the hard work of our students. Honestly, I’m just in awe of them. They united like no other student body in the United States.
1:15 p.m. Thursday
Three-year-old Sarah nibbles on her father’s sandwich while her one-year-old sister tosses around in her stroller.
“It was a tough job to graduate with babies, but looking at them today, it was worth it,” said Dayo Oluwagbule, having lunch under a shade tree with his daughters and his wife, Fola.
Oluwagbule has just graduated from Law School with a Masters of Law and is a specialist in healthcare compliance.
“I chose WashU for its rich culture, and I love the way the school welcomes a lot of races and cultures,” Oluwagbule said. “It touched my heart.”
2:50 p.m. Thursday
Today may be the peak of their classmates’ college careers, but not for this group of Olin Business School student-athletes. Next month, they will compete in the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship for the college’s 24th National Championship.
“I don’t think any of us feel like anybody else here,” said Henry Singer, of the No. 1 ranked Bears, as he and his teammates prepared to enter Francis Olympic Field. . “For them, it’s the last thing they’ll do for WashU. We still have a step in this journey. “
The friends were devastated last spring when the pandemic interrupted their promising season. But they have bounced back this year, setting a 28-3 record, one of the best in team history.
“From the moment we got back we knew we could have an amazing team,” said Johnny LaMantia. “We had a lot of fun. We don’t want this to end.
9:43 a.m. on Friday, May 21
Elders Anne and Juan Arias fell in love with Francis Field over 30 years ago. Today they returned to see their daughter Olivia Arias get a degree in Environmental Studies from Arts and Sciences.
“I can’t believe that 30 years later we had a child who graduated here, in this place where we spent so much time,” said Anne Arias.
“It really feels good,” added Juan Arias, who, along with Anne, has continued to attend University of Washington track and field competitions over the years. “It’s like our backyard.”
Even sweeter, the Arias family were able to celebrate with dear friends, former Bears record holder Susan Pruett, her husband – and former medical school student – John Pruett, MD, PhD, and their son, Jack Pruett, who graduated in linguistics. of Arts and Sciences. Olivia and Jack were born a week apart and have celebrated their birthdays together for years.
“I’ll never forget that she showed up to our race and said, ‘Anne, I’m pregnant.’ And I said, “Sue, I’m pregnant,” ”recalls Anne Arias.
“We literally grew up together,” said Olivia Arias.
Still, Olivia and Jack were surprised to learn that both had applied and been accepted at WashU.
“It was a total and happy coincidence,” said Jack Pruett.
11:35 am Friday
Seven years ago, Geoff Childs, an anthropology arts and science professor, met Kunsang Lama while running a health clinic in the remote Himalayan village where Lama’s family live. Today he looked at his diploma.
“I could see she was very smart and curious, but also incredibly level-headed in a way that showed maturity beyond her years,” said Childs, who attended Lama’s graduation ceremony with her daughter. , second year student at Washington University, Lienne Childs. “I knew she could be successful at WashU.”
And she earned a degree in anthropology of arts and sciences and a place in a competitive doctoral program at the University of Washington, where she will study water management and indigenous people.
Lama credits Childs for his success. A lawyer, mentor and surrogate father, Childs paved the way for Lama to attend WashU, helping him negotiate the admissions process and encouraging him when classes got tough. Along the way, Childs introduced her to Missouri State Parks and included her in holiday dinners. And when COVID-19 hit campus, Childs’ family invited Lama to live with them for the summer.
“Dr. Childs and his family opened their home to me, ”said Lama, whose father died when she was young. “If I needed a ride from the airport or help with moving or anything at all, he was there for me. He takes me as his family. And he’s my family.
2:30 p.m. Friday
Fueled by Diet Coke, Gina Tramelli makes what could be her hundredth round trip between Francis Field and the Olympic rings, where Graduate School and University College students begin to wave before the penultimate ceremony of the day.
“So far, everything is fine,” said Tramelli, whose team has been working past midnight for weeks. “It’s the hardest thing our team has ever done. Everything is different and new. ”
Tramelli and Michelle Gelven, Director of Commencement, handled every detail of the university’s 160th launch, from booking keynote speaker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to hiring the lighting and sound crews to ordering the mask. facial Class 2021. And when the CDC paved the way for students to invite more loved ones to Commencement, they communicated new guidelines, found more chairs, and ordered 10,000 boxed meals from local caterers. The end result: a Beginning that looked and felt like, well, Beginning.
“The energy from the parents has been amazing,” Tramelli said. “There was so much anxiety at the beginning – a new place, different ceremonies, safety precautions. People didn’t know what to expect. But once they were here they were like, ‘This is great.’ ”
6:40 p.m. Friday
Happily, the clique was back. The ten-year tradition of the School of Medicine honors these final moments of conviviality among a graduating class and reflects on the lifelong bonds formed over four or more years of academic and emotional intensity.
Led by Lisa M. Moscoso, MD, PhD, associate dean of student affairs and professor of pediatrics, the clique occurs every start in the minutes leading up to the students’ ceremonial march to become MDs.
There was no blockade last year due to COVID-19. Moscoso wasn’t sure there would be one this year. In the weeks leading up to the start, students, including class president Connie Gan, began asking questions about the clique’s fate. Fortunately, thanks to vaccines, masking and other safety protocols, the clique has returned.
“We form a circle to give the students a space to focus and be present in the moment,” said Moscoso. “It’s a way for them to connect with themselves to savor all that they have accomplished. It also encourages them to look around and grab the attention of their classmates. This is the last time they are meeting in class. The clique is a space of gratitude. “
Moscoso concludes the clique with a quote from Maya Angelou: “If you have to look back, do it with indulgence. If you have to look ahead, do it in prayer. However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present… with gratitude.
– Kristina Sauerwein
8:30 p.m. Friday
As the latest graduates leave Francis Olympic Field, Martin smiles for one last set of photos and offers congratulatory punches.
“I’m just blown away by the students who survived this and the team who managed to do it,” said Martin. “It was one of the funniest celebrations of my life – one that I will never forget.”
Visit here to read Abdul-Jabbar’s full speech.
Visit here to read Chancellor Martin’s address to the graduates.
Visit here to read Senior Class President Michelle Wang’s address to graduates.
Note: A collection of photos from the 2021 launch ceremonies will be available for viewing and downloading by Friday, May 28.