Looking Within

Commencement honor is given to those who know Notre Dame College best

Just a few days removed from the classroom, Christian Taske ’07 stepped to the podium as the final speaker for Notre Dame College’s eighty-third commencement. As one of three speakers that day, Taske had only a few moments to recapture the memories and spirit of his four years at Notre Dame. “My speech was about us as a class and not me as an individual. I wanted it to be a celebration of this special group.”

Taske, who received the 2007 Sr. Mary Agnes Bosche Award for outstanding traditional undergraduates, was joined on stage that day by fellow graduating students Stephanie McGruder, recipient of the St. Catherine of Alexandria Medal given to graduate students, and Manuel A. Santiago, Jr. who was honored with the Sr. LeRoy Finn Award for non-traditional adult students.

The College began this fresh approach toward the venerable tradition of the commencement address with the class of 2005. In celebration of the first fully coeducational graduating class, two students, Justin Tisdale and Kathleen McBrearty, were selected to join faculty member Deb Sheren as the official commencement speakers. According to Dr. T.J Arant, vice president of academic affairs, “Our thinking was ‘What would make an impact?’ We decided that having their peers speak to them would resonate.”

Through the years, Notre Dame’s commencement speakers have been a veritable who’s who of regional politicians, civic and religious leaders and local celebrities. But having students speak captures something intangible and special about the College. “The students speak for the class and commemorate who they, as a class, have become. I think that’s something no outside speaker could do,” said Arant.

The student speakers in 2005 deftly spoke on relevant themes, sharing memories with their fellow classmates in a way that only a Notre Dame College ‘05 graduate could do. Tisdale recalls that “I talked about finding a way to be successful in life. I played basketball and our coach liked to use the saying ‘Find a Way’. I think that even the people who were not athletes could appreciate the spirit of what I was saying, because everybody who graduates has to find a way to reach their goals.”

The traditions of commencement often reflect the values of an institution. For Notre Dame, this tradition is a lasting reminder of what the College values most: its students. That message was not lost on McGruder. “That Notre Dame prefers to have its own speak at commencement instead of more famous people is humbling. It indicates the emphasis the College places on its students.”

Steve Ruic is the writer and editor for Notre Dame College. 

E.g., 06/24/19
E.g., 06/24/19