Wittenberg University’s 168th Commencement exercises will take place Saturday, May 12, in picturesque Commencement Hollow, where members of the university community will celebrate with 377 degree candidates slated to cross the stage.
Prior to Commencement, the Class of 2018 will hold its Baccalaureate service on Friday, May 11. Pre-service music will begin at 2 p.m., with the ceremony starting at 2:15 p.m.
The Baccalaureate service, planned and run by members of the senior class and Matevia Endowed University Pastor, Rachel Sandum Tune, is an academic and religious tradition that celebrates the upcoming Commencement festivities. The service offers seniors an opportunity to reflect on their time at Wittenberg and to look to faith as they begin the next step in their journey.
Members of the Class of 2018 will reflect on the importance of community and trust in times of change, and challenge one another to live out their callings beyond Wittenberg. Mecca Abdul-Aziz, senior class president and Alma Mater; Evan Wheeler, class secretary; Mallory Kobler, class public relations chair; and Lucas George, Alma Lux; will offer greetings, along with Wittenberg’s 15th President Michael L. Frandsen. Those seniors offering reflections include Haruno Sakamoto, Kathryn Ophardt, Tyler Begg, and Libby Bauman. Pastor Rachel Tune will deliver the homily.
Readers include Madeline Bones, Elizabeth Burns, Morgan Beechey, Zara Tickner, as well as Faith Mahnke and Ray Delgado leading the congregation in a psalm. Christopher Mills, Abigail King, Samantha Strich, and Isabella Herman will share various prayers throughout the service.
Pre-service music will feature solos by Benjamin Knochel, bassoon; Xavier Davenport, guitar; Mareyuna Lukasak, violin; Katie Andrulis, organ; and a string quintet with Keenan Buchanan, bass; Cayla Etter, viola; Mizuho Harada, violin; Mareyuna Lukasak, violin; and Zara Tickner, cello. Special music throughout the service will be shared by seniors of the Wittenberg Choir and Wittenberg Singers, as well as Wittenberg’s a cappella groups, Just Eve and Wittmen Crew. Trudy Faber, professor emerita of music, will accompany the hymns and close the service with a postlude on the organ.
An annual tradition also includes the lighting of a memorial candle in honor of loved ones who cannot be at Commencement. Marie Ojo will introduce the candle, and John Kolberg will read Psalm 121 as Brigid Morgan lights the candle. This year, a special remembrance of classmate Alina Simons, who died in 2015, will be given by Adam Headlee.
In the spirit of Wittenberg’s mission: “Reflecting its Lutheran heritage, Wittenberg challenges its students to become responsible global citizens, to discover their callings, and to lead personal, professional, and civic lives of creativity, service, compassion, and integrity,” the planning committee also selects the beneficiaries of the offering at the Baccalaureate service. This year, all donations will address hunger locally and globally, and will be divided evenly between Lesotho Nutrition Initiative, introduced by Madeline O’Malley and Anna Fort; and Second Harvest Food Bank, introduced by Lizzie McNeill.
For Commencement exercises, the Myers Hall bell will toll multiple times Saturday morning to notify the campus that the ceremony will be held in its intended outdoor location at the scheduled time of 11:30 a.m. in Commencement Hollow. If the bell does not ring, that will be a signal that the ceremony will take place in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER) Center, with doors scheduled to open at 9 a.m. Guests should be seated at either venue no later than 11 a.m. as doors will close promptly at 11:15 a.m. for the academic procession.
Special parking and seating have been arranged for physically disabled guests. For Commencement exercises held outdoors, physically disabled guests may enter campus before 10 a.m. through the drive on North Plum Street. A Wittenberg security officer will be at the driveway entrance to give instructions for parking and seating. In the event the exercises are held indoors, guests who are physically disabled may be dropped off in front of the HPER Center. Because of limited space in the HPER Center, seating is at a premium, so physically disabled guests may be seated with only one friend or family member.
The 2018 Commencement speaker is King Letsie III, the Constitutional Monarch of the southern African Kingdom of Lesotho. His Majesty King Letsie III and Robert Perry, class of 1967, will be presented honorary degrees during the ceremony. Warren Copeland, Wittenberg professor of religion, faculty director of the Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Civic and Urban Engagement, and mayor of Springfield, will be awarded the Wittenberg Medal of Honor.
Born in 1963, His Majesty King Letsie III, succeeded his father, Moshoeshoe II, as monarch of his country in 1996. In 2000, he declared HIV/AIDS in Lesotho to be a national disaster, prompting worldwide attention and aid to those in need. In 2014, he was appointed as African Nutrition Champion by the African Union, and in 2016, he was named special ambassador for nutrition by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Since 2003, more than 400 Wittenberg students and community members have participated in a service-learning trip to Lesotho through a program founded by Scott Rosenberg, professor of history, chair of Wittenberg’s Peace Corps Prep Program, and Honorary Consul to the Kingdom of Lesotho.
Perry, who graduated from Wittenberg with a bachelor’s degree in political science, has experienced an illustrious career in foreign relations spanning 34 years, serving as U.S. Ambassador and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.
Copeland, who became a faculty member in 1977, is noted for his scholarship in social ethics. He co-edited an introductory text on social ethics, Issues of Justice, and writes on topics such as cities, welfare, racism, economic policy, and energy. Also a community champion, Copeland was appointed to the Springfield City Commission in 1988. He won election in 1989, and reelection in 1993, 1997 and 2001. He served as mayor of Springfield from 1990 to 1994 and again from 1998 to the present.