Largest Class in College History Takes Part in 2017 Commencement

Largest Class in College History Takes Part in 2017 Commencement

Published: Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Benedictine College Commencement Ceremonies

Benedictine College saw the largest graduating class in its 159-year history on Saturday, May 13, as 440 undergraduate and graduate degree recipients walked across the stage in the Ralph Nolan Gymnasium on the school’s Atchsion, Kan., campus. In addition to a diploma, each recipient also received a Fatima medal blessed by Pope Francis. The medals recognized the 100th anniversary of the first appearance by the Virgin Mary to the shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal, on May 13, 1917.

“Our Lady has been important to Benedictine College from the beginning, and we are expressing our thanks and dedication to here on this historic 100th anniversary of her apparitions at Fatima,” said Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis. “We wanted to celebrate the Fatima Centennial Day as well, and what better occasion than when we have so many students and their families in town for commencement?”

Dr. Kimberly Shankman, Dean of the College, directed the annual exercise, which began with a prayer from Sister Anne Shepard OSB, Prioress at Mount St. Scholastica Monastery, one of the founding institutions of Benedictine College.

The keynote address came from Clare Vanderpool, an award-winning children’s author whose books have won the Newbery Medal and Printz Honor. Hailing from Wichita, she is the first native-Kansan Newbery Medalist. She is also the mother of three Benedictine College students, one of whom was graduating that day. The college presented her with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

“I am confident that you all have wonderful roads, wonderful stories ahead of you,” Vanderpool said in her speech. “You will go on to do great things, I have no doubt. But truly great things always start with little things. Little gestures, encounters, graces. And it’s all the little things that make up life.”

There were two Valedictorians for 2017. Both Laura Tibbs, a Biology major, and Augustine Calvino, a Mathematics and Computer Science major, completed their academic careers with perfect 4.0 grade point averages. Tibbs will enter a Genetics Ph.D. program at Iowa State University in the fall, and Calvino will become a missionary for St. Paul’s Outreach.

The day also featured the announcement of the annual Fran Jabara Leadership Award winners. Each year, the award is given to one male and one female graduating senior at each private, four-year Kansas college. The award indicates the high level of ability the recipients have displayed as well as the respect with which their peers and teachers view them. This year, the Jabara Leadership Awards went to Lauren Benzing, a Theology and Philosophy major from Solon, Iowa, and Jeffrey Fennewald, a Mathematics and Theology major from Troy, Missouri. Both had been active in the college and surrounding communities and had served in ministry programs.

In another special moment during Commencement, President Minnis introduced the students who were going into religious life. Jeff Fennewald, David Hall, Ryan Lindsay, and Megan Ruzicka, will be entering the seminary or consecrated life after graduation. Minnis called them “the next leaders of the Church.”

Minnis also recognized Michael Nigus, a non-traditional student who returned to college later in life after having served in the military. Nigus had been wounded in action and was awarded the Purple Heart. He wore a special purple honor cord in recognition of his sacrifice. He earned degrees in Education and Special Education and will teach special education in USD 409, Atchison Public Schools.

Near the end of the ceremony, two graduates were commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Army.  Lt. Col. James Schreffler, a 1991 graduate of Benedictine College, conducted the ceremony. He had the special honor of administering the oath to his own son, Anthony Schreffler, who will report to Fort Rucker, Alabama, for Army Flight Training School after graduation. The other young man commissioned was Peter Hoff. Hoff was commissioned into the Missouri National Guard and will report to Fort Benning, Georgia, for the Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course.

The ceremony concluded with one of the graduates, Hunter Eisenmenger, a Music Education major, singing the Benedictine College Alma Mater, O Lord of Ev’ry Blessing, followed by the Benediction from the Right Reverend James Albers OSB, the Abbot at St. Benedict’s Abbey, one of the founding institutions of Benedictine College.

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.