Gettysburg College Holds Class of 2023 Commencement

By Laken Franchetti, News Editor

On Saturday, May 13 at 11 a.m., Gettysburg College’s class of 2023 was celebrated at the 188th Commencement. Students lined up to process through Pennsylvania Hall from the south side to the north side to mark the conclusion of their college experience, inverting the procession that occurs during the Opening Convocation of students’ first year at the college.

Senior students on the lacrosse teams were given a special commencement on Thursday, May 11 at 12:30 p.m. to accommodate the schedules of these student-athletes that were competing during Saturday’s Commencement.

The Processional was led by College Marshal and Professor of History Michael J. Birkner ’72, and the Commencement Brass Ensemble played throughout.

At the conclusion of the processional, Birkner welcomed the audience to the ceremony. He also shared that due to the inclement weather, various places on campus were opened to guests if they preferred to watch the Commencement’s livestream rather than remain outside on the Beacham Portico.

Birkner then introduced Sebastian Garcia ’23 to sing the National Anthem. Following this, the posting of the class flag was completed by Valedictorian Bryn Katherine Werley ’23. Director of Religious Life and Spiritual Life and College Chaplain Bright gave a land acknowledgement and the Invocation.

Class of 2023 Commencement (Photo courtesy of Katie Oglesby '23)

Class of 2023 Commencement (Photo courtesy of Katie Oglesby ’23)

President Robert Iuliano then gave the opening address.

“I go back to the phrase that greeted you on your arrival: the best way to predict your future is to create it,” Iuliano said. “Over the course of the last four years, we have come together to create that future… By descending those stairs today as you just did, it means that you are ready to take everything you experienced here ― the challenges and the joys, the stumbles and the triumphs ― and put this learning to good use tomorrow and in the years ahead.”

Iuliano reminisced on arriving at the college as President the same year that the class of 2023 arrived.

“Some of you may have heard me remark that I see myself as a member of your class given our shared arrival. I regard it as one of the true honors of my life to be ever bound to this very special group of gifted graduates,” Iuliano said.

Iuliano then introduced Anna L. Benson ’23 to deliver the Senior Address. Benson encouraged students to pause and reflect on their journeys from Opening Convocation as a first-year student to Commencement.

“As we sit today, I urge you to soak in the sense of the once unfamiliar campus that has now become our home,” Benson said. “The Glatfelter tower above us, whose bell has chimed its way into the soundtrack of our daily Gettysburg lives, and the cupola that sits atop Penn Hall adorns the class of 2023 flag, which has not flown since we matriculated into campus in August of 2019.”

Benson spoke on how the class’ first year was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and she highlighted the resilience and comradery that the class exhibits.

“Only seven months into our first year, our class was confronted with the question of how to engage with a community that was separated by distance, yet just as we were able to dance through the puddles at our first year walk, we embraced the challenge, and our community only grew stronger.”

Benson then introduced Victoria L. Staub ’23 to announce the results of the senior class gift. $2,315 was raised among 161 members of the class of 2023 to support the Office of Multicultural Engagement, sports teams, academic departments, and Gettysburg funds.

Iuliano then invited Vice Chair on the Board of Trustees Lori Kono Clapp ’73 forward to present the Lavern H. Brenneman ’36 Award for Exemplary Volunteer Service to Gettysburg College to Patricia W. Henry ’71.

Clapp then introduced two candidates for honorary degrees: John J. Hewes P’01 and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman. Hewes was presented with an honorary degree for a Doctor of Science in Business Administration, and Sherman was presented with an honorary degree for a Doctor of Public Service.

Sherman then gave the Commencement Address and expressed to students that the foundation they have created at Gettysburg will serve them well beyond graduation.

“It’s with those building blocks beneath your feet and that diploma in your hands that you will be ready to face the unpredictability of tomorrow with courage, confidence, and hope,” Sherman said. “Then decades from now, your successors will be able to point to this class as that one that embraced the uncertainty before them, assumed the responsibility for the unfinished work of creating a feature of strength, prosperity, peace, inclusiveness, and possibility.”

Iuliano then presented the Conferring of Degrees for the Bachelor of Arts, Science, Music and Music Education. Candidates were presented by Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Dean of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs and Professor of Africana Studies Jennifer Collins Bloomquist, Associate Provost for Academic Assessment and Dean of Natural Sciences, Computer Science and Mathematics and Professor of Mathematics Darren Glass and Vice Provost and Dean of Arts and Humanities Jack Ryan.

Following the Conferring of Degrees, President of the Alumni Board of Directors Al Wilkins ’06 welcomed the class of 2023 into the Alumni Association, and he explained the tradition involving the stoles of gratitude. Sophia L. Low ’23 then sang the Alma Mater in accompaniment with the Commencement Brass Ensemble, and Bright delivered the Benediction.

Iuliano then delivered his charge to the graduates.

“My charge to you is simply this: lean into life’s unpredictability. The reins of leadership are now in your hands to steer us in the direction of progress. You are ready,” Iuliano said. “You have received a consequential education, one that has exposed you to the complexity of society… you’ve been steeped in an environment that stresses the importance of getting involved. You have learned more about yourself and honed the enduring skills from which change emerges.”

Author: Laken Franchetti

Laken Franchetti ’24 serves as the Editor-in-Chief for The Gettysburgian. She has previously served as News Editor, Assistant News Editor and as a staff writer for the news and arts and entertainment sections. Laken is an English with a writing concentration and history double major. On-campus, she is the Editor-in-Chief for Her Campus, the Nonfiction Genre Head for The Mercury and a user services assistant at Musselman Library. Laken is also a Lincoln scholar and spent the Fall ’22 semester abroad in London and Lancaster, England. In her free time, Laken is an avid film fan and enjoys reading.

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