Class of 2019 celebrates new beginnings

by Jennifer Johnson,

Commencement speakers offer advice, humor as more than 400 grads prepare for future.

  • Students dressed in caps and gowns walk in the commencement procession.
    College of Liberal Arts graduates walk during the commencement procession, which begins at Cone Fieldhouse and crosses over the Mill Stream. Pictured in the forefront is Sam Hudd ’19.
  • Andres Endericavillacis MBA’19
    “We sat in the auditorium about two years ago as new students,” said Andres Endericavillacis MBA’19, an Ecuadorian who served in the U.S. military from May 2006 to August 2017 before enrolling at Willamette. “Knowing that this will end and we will no longer work together is very bittersweet.”
  • Sarah Baily MBA’19
    Sarah Baily MBA’19 is hooded during the commencement ceremony. This is the first year AGSM and Law offered “legacy hooding,” during which parent alumni could step onstage and hood their children.
  • Jeremiah James MBA’19
    Jeremiah James MBA’19 and others pose for the official class photo. AGSM had 58 MBAs for Business, Government and Not-for-Profit Management.
  • Madeline Atmore ’18, MBA’19
    Madeline Atmore ’18, MBA’19 said, “It feels surreal. I went through my BA here and this ceremony is more emotional. There were 58 of us who grew close.”
  • Punit Renjen MM ’86
    Punit Renjen MM’86, CEO of Deloitte Global, delivered the Atkinson Graduate School of Management commencement speech. “I never stopped believing in my own future,” he said. “Where I had been did not define where I could go.”
  • College of Law graduates pose for a photo
    This year, 85 JD students graduated from the College of Law.
  • Matika Levy JD’19
    “It’s the longest and shortest three years of your life,” Matika Levy JD’19 said. “Now, it’s the start of a beginning.”
  • U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski JD’85, R-Alaska
    U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski JD’85, R-Alaska, followed her son, Nicolas Martell JD’19/MBA’19 onstage. She later tweeted, “As a Willamette Law graduate myself, I had the incredible honor to be able to hood him at yesterday's graduation ceremony. So proud!”
  • Jason Voorhees JD’19
    Jason Voorhees JD’19 said graduation hadn’t hit him yet — his real focus is passing the bar. “This is a checkpoint. I feel ready for the next step.”
  • Jonathan Mayes, JD’87
    Jonathan Mayes, JD’87, senior vice president of external affairs and chief diversity officer for Albertsons Companies, delivered Willamette Law's commencement speech. He told graduates to reach under their chairs to find his gift to them and “the first graduation money you’ll receive,” he joked. It was $1. “Here’s the deal,” he said. “You can’t keep it, nor can you give it to someone you know. It is a symbol of what I want you to do as professionals … many of you will make more than you can conceive of now. Give back — not only your money, but your time.”
  • Anthony Ninthara ’19
    Anthony Ninthara ’19 beams after the College of Liberal Arts commencement.
  • Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell
    Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell delivered the College of Liberal Arts commencement speech. An astrophysicist from Northern Ireland, Bell Burnell co-discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967 as a postgraduate student. Even though she was the first to observe the pulsars, she was excluded as a recipient of the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics that recognized the discovery. On Sunday, Bell Burnell received an Honorary Doctor of Science.
  • Ben Bajema ’19
    Graduates hug Ben Bajema ’19. This year, the College of Liberal Arts counted 374 graduates, including three with Bachelor's of Music degrees.
  • Maxine Cheney ’19
    Graduation is the first in a series of big events for Maxine Cheney ’19, history major — she’s moving back to her native California for work and getting married next summer. As she looks back, she's grateful for the support network she found at Willamette, which includes a set of friends who, per campus tradition, dumped her in the Mill Stream for her birthday during her first year. The week has been an emotional one. “I cried all weekend, I cried yesterday, I cried today,” she said, in part because she misses her grandfather, who was a huge supporter of her decision to attend Willamette. He died a few years ago. “I wish he was here to see this,” she said.
  • CLA graduates wearing regalia in procession around the Mill Stream
    CLA graduates wearing regalia in procession around the Mill Stream.
  • Eli Sher ’19
    Eli Sher ’19, politics major, declared his major the day after President Trump got elected. “I wanted to study politics and at least understand it.” He chose Willamette because of its close location to Oregon State Capitol. Although he didn’t get to his internship — he adopted a kitten and contracted cat scratch fever (“I thought it was just a song,” he said.) — he was able to gain three years of work experience with WITS. For his next step, he’s thinking about similar support work at a university or company help desk, he said.
  • Raina Arberry ’19 and Ivy Rivas ’19
    Despite some rainfall at the end of commencement, Raina Arberry ’19 and Ivy Rivas ’19 take time for a quick selfie.
  • Ash Mari Veneracion Alunan ’19
    Graduates expressed a range of emotions Sunday — happiness, relief, sadness and excitement. Pictured is Ash Mari Veneracion Alunan ’19.
  • Maggie Mellecker ’19
    Friends and family clustered around the Quad showed their appreciation and pride for new graduates. Maggie Mellecker ’19 is embraced by a guest.

More than 400 students representing three schools — the College of Liberal Arts, Atkinson Graduate School of Management and the College of Law — graduated from Willamette on Sunday.

The new alumni greeted their families for hugs and selfies on the Quad, bid farewell to their classmates and marked an official end to their years on campus as the next chapter of their life begins.

Per tradition, each college ceremony included student speakers, an invocation led by the chaplains and the recognition of emeriti faculty. AGSM honored Douglas E. Goe, a partner in the Orrick Law Firm, with the Glenn L. Jackson Leadership Award in recognition of Goe’s public and private leadership.

Commencement speakers offered graduates advice and told stories of their career growth with humor and humility. CEO of Deloitte Global Punit Renjen MM’86, who delivered the AGSM speech and received an Honorary Doctor of Business, said he was in awe of the lights along I-5 when he moved to Oregon. In his native Rohtak, India, the city could not afford lights for his neighborhood. Now, he’s the CEO of a $45-billion organization.

Jonathan Mayes JD’87, senior vice president of external affairs and chief diversity officer for grocery company Albertsons, told Willamette Law graduates about a woman who gave him a place to stay in Oakland, California, after he was rejected by another landlord for his race. The woman, who now lives in Portland, was in attendance and Mayes thanked her to loud applause. He encouraged graduates to “give back.”

During her CLA speech, Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell, an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland, described the moment she co-discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967 — a moment that’s been described as “one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th century.” She also received an Honorary Doctor of Science.

Bell Burnell spoke of the challenges she overcame to become a top astrophysicist in a male-dominated field with some appalling social conventions. If a woman worked, her children were considered delinquents by society, she said.

“So graduating class, how many of your mothers worked?” she asked. Loud cheers erupted from the crowd.

By the numbers

College of Liberal Arts

  • 371 BAs.
  • 3 Bachelor of Music degrees.

College of Law

  • 86 JDs.
  • 5 Master of Laws.
  • 1 Master of Legal Studies.

Atkinson Graduate School of Management

  • 58 MBAs for Business, Government and Not-For-Profit Management, 23 of which were BA/MBA and eight were JD/MBA.
  • 48 MBA degrees were awarded in August 2018 and January 2019 to students in the MBA for Professionals program.

Willamette Academy

  • 28 students, 16 of which will attend Willamette.
  • This past year, university students volunteered for more than 575 hours and university student staff worked more than 3,000 hours in support of program students.

Emeriti Faculty

  • Professor of Law Michael B. Wise, 38 years of service.
  • Professor of Rhetoric Catherine Collins, 37 years of service.
  • Professor of Biology Susan Kephart, 37 years of service.
  • Professor of Philosophy Sally Markowitz, 35 years of service.
  • Associate Professor of Computer Science Jim Levenick, 33 years of service.
  • Professor of Music Dan Rouslin, 32 years of service.
  • Professor of Economics Jerry Gray, 28 years of service.
  • Professor of Music John Peel, 28 years of service.
  • Professor of Anthropology Pam Moro, 22 years of service.

Find the full listing of graduates and more information about the commencement honorees and speakers on the website.

CLA commencement speaker Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Willamette Law commencement speaker Jonathan O. Mayes, Esq. JD’87

Atkinson Graduate School of Management commencement speaker Punit Renjen MM’86

Willamette University

University Communications

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