Joint Commencement 2020-2021

Benedictine College Honors Graduates from both 2020 and 2021

Commencement Celebration 2021

Seniors from the Class of 2020 returned to Atchison, Kan., to walk across the stage with their friends from the Class of 2021 during joint Commencement Exercises held at Benedictine College on Saturday, May 15. Seventy-nine graduate students had earned their MBA or MASL degrees and many received their hoods and diplomas the week before in a separate ceremony. Those at the undergraduate ceremony were among the 447 from the Class of 2020 and 373 from the Class of 2021. They heard an inspiring speech from 1991 Benedictine alumnus, the Most Reverend Andrew H. Cozzens, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, who was the event’s keynote speaker.

“I couldn’t be more grateful than I am today for the opportunity to speak at your Commencement and for the Honorary Degree I receive today,” said Bishop Cozzens. “This is because I couldn’t be more proud of my Alma Mater, Benedictine College, and the way it has continued to grow in its mission to serve the Church. I am not alone in my opinion that it is truly one of the premier Catholic Colleges of the 21st century.”

Bishop Cozzens receives a Benedictine College Honorary Degree from President Stephen Minnis and Board member Helen Healy (Cozzens' sister).“My dear young brothers and sisters…Do you know this love which is burning and unchangeable? This love which is so strong that it can capture your whole heart and reveal to you who you truly are. This love which is so great that it can transform any struggle or difficulty even death itself into a way to love. This is the love which Jesus Christ revealed to us when he gave his life for you on the Cross,” he told the graduates. “If you surrender your life to this love, day in and day out. If you seek to live for this love… not only will you possess the secret of joy in this life, but you will fulfill your part in God’s plan and receive from him the joy of eternal life!”

As part of the ceremony, Bishop Cozzens received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Benedictine College. He was hooded by his sister, Helen Healy, a member of the Benedictine College Board, along with Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis.

Minnis thanked the graduates for how well they had worked together to finally have an in-person graduation for the Class of 2020 and combine it with the Class of 2021.

“Last year during your junior and senior year, you left school at Spring Break and did not return—how heartbreaking is that?” he asked the graduates. “And now look at you—willing to share this special moment with each other.  Understanding that the class of 2020 deserves their official commencement, and that the class of 2021 deserves to be celebrated too. And both of you have willingly given up your moment for the other.  I have been so moved by how you have all handled this—really with joy and optimism.” 

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

Multiple valedictorians from both class years spoke during the ceremony. Valedictorians from the Class of 2020 were Nicholas Brose (Biology), Daniel Fortino (Mathematics and Secondary Education) and Sabrina Poston (Finance and Accounting). The 2021 Valedictorians were Emma Girton (Theology and Music), Matthew Krishnan Myjak (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), Danielle Rumsey (Biology), Christopher Rziha (Theology, Philosophy and Spanish), and Hannah Tichy (Elementary Education). They had all maintained perfect 4.0 Grade Point Averages throughout their college careers.

Benedictine senior Peter Hockel stands as he is announced as a 2021 Fran Jabara Leadership Award recipient.President of Benedictine College Stephen D. Minnis announced the annual Fran Jabara Leadership Award winners for both classes. Each year, the award is given to select graduating seniors at each private, four-year college in Kansas. 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. For 2020, the Jabara Leadership Awards went to Kylie Mulholland, with majors in psychology and theology, and JohnPaul Stedwill, with majors in biology and philosophy. The 2021 Jabara Leadership Awards went to Lindsey Hart, a music education major, and Peter Hockel, a political science major.

During Benedictine’s Commencement ceremony, President Minnis also recognized those students who were soon-to-be commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army, Air Force or Marine Corps. Those students were Noah Hermes, Joseph Ingalls, Mary McCowen, Miguel Monteclaro, Aaron Ptak, Quade Salazar, Katherine Branstetter, Peter Hockel, and Jane Pennefather. He also recognized other military personnel, veterans and first responders in the audience.

The ceremony concluded with one of the graduates, Nicole Buchman, a Music Education major, singing the Benedictine College Alma Mater, O Lord of Ev’ry Blessing, followed by the closing prayer from Abbot James Albers OSB of St. Benedict’s Abbey.

The days before Commencement featured the traditional photo of graduates around the Benedictine “B” on the ground in from of the Haverty Center. Other traditions included the March of Light, a procession up the Raven Walk, through the Grotto and into the Abbey Church for Baccalaureate Mass. The Most Reverend Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas, was the principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass.

“Benedictine College has created a culture where the pursuit of truth is celebrated no matter if it is in the laboratory unlocking the beauty of the natural world or in the chapel kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament,” the Archbishop has said about the 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.

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