The second graduating class of Castleton University passed across the stage at its 230th Commencement ceremony on Saturday, bringing to close the 2016-17 academic year. Governor Phil Scott addressed the more than 3,500 guests in attendance and thousands more streaming the ceremony live online. Scott urged the graduates to understand that the best, is yet to come.
“If you never stop listening, learning, exploring, and expanding your comfort zone,” said Scott, “Life will indeed get better. Promise yourself you'll never settle, never be afraid to pursue opportunities, and you'll find your passion.”
Castleton President Dave Wolk began the proceedings by reflecting on his many years at Castleton and previous Commencement ceremonies, acknowledging his last as Castleton University President.
“For me, this Commencement is number 16, and with very mixed feelings it is my last as President,” Wolk said earnestly. “It is a bittersweet day for me because I have come to know and love so many of you. I shook many of your hands at freshman orientation and now I shake your hand again today. It is an honor for me. I love how you transformed yourself. I love how you transformed Castleton. I love how you transformed me. I ask you to always remember your special place in the small University with the big heart. Thank you and Keep Smiling.”
As has become tradition, President Wolk continued by announcing the recipients of several distinguished awards. Assistant Professor of Health, Human Movement, and Sport Marybeth Lennox was awarded the Alumni Association Outstanding Faculty Award, which is given annually to a faculty member whose excellence in teaching influences students well beyond graduation. Kathleen Haseltine was honored with the Leonard C. Goldman Distinguished Senior Award, an annual honor given to the graduating senior who has excelled in and out of the classroom, contributed to community service, and served as an example to others. Helen Strom-Olsen, part-time faculty member in Health, Human Movement and Sport, was awarded the Endowed Outstanding Part-Time Faculty Award, which honors one of Castleton’s many dedicated, highly competent part-time faculty.
Class of 2017 President Daniel Warnecke, also addressed the standing room only crowd. He reminded his fellow classmates of the many ways Castleton has shaped them, both academically and personally, and encouraged all to carry on the Castleton Way far beyond the campus boarders.
“Fellow graduating seniors, my guess is that life is not always going to be as simple as the life we have had at Castleton University," said Warnecke. "I know, it’s easy to get used to the comforts of college, and that’s okay. We were all lucky enough to experience Castleton as students, and were lucky enough to also experience the positive impacts of carrying out the Castleton Way,” finished Warnecke.
Once all the degrees had been conferred, President Wolk brought the day’s largest cheer by exclaiming: “You have made a difference at Castleton. Now go out and make a difference in the world. Ladies and gentlemen…the Class of 2017.”