Bethel College’s 115th Commencement was certainly the most colorful in recent memory.
A major factor was the setting, outdoors under a bright blue Kansas May sky on the artificial turf of Joe W. Goering Field, the first time since 1941 that ceremonies were not held in Memorial Hall and, as far as anyone knows, the first time Bethel Commencement has ever been outside.
Another reason was an unusually high number of students from Africa. The 2008 graduates represented seven countries other than the United States, all of them African, with six students from Nigeria, three from Kenya, two from Tanzania and one each from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Niger and Togo. All but two of the students graduated with degrees in nursing.
Nursing students wore the traditional orange stoles to signify their degrees and the Nigerian students had green and white stoles in the colors of the Nigerian flag as well. In addition, as has been the case for the past number of years, Bethel’s African-American Alumni Association presented every African-American graduate with a multi-colored Kente cloth stole.
The electronic carillon in the top of Memorial Hall played a peal of bells as the graduates took the traditional march around the Green and then headed past Mem Hall to Thresher Stadium. As they entered the stadium, Director of Church Relations Dale Schrag rang the bell that has marked the “opening of school” since the mid-1970s.
Commencement speaker Janine Wedel, a social anthropologist and a professor of public policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., echoed a theme from the annual Alumni Banquet of the night before in building her address, “Serious fun,” around life lessons to be learned from pranks.