As family and friends entered Memorial Auditorium for the graduation ceremony, spirits were high. The weather delivered a near-perfect day with sunshine and moderate temperatures. Those who had attended baccalaureate that morning may have been pondering the Rev. Elly McHan’s sermon on transitions and how their graduate would soon be living in liminal space – the time between what was and what is to come.
But there was still one event left for these graduates, and The Concordia Band didn’t want anyone to forget this was a festive day. Dr. Peter Haberman nearly brought the audience to its feet during the prelude as he enthusiastically conducted the band in two vibrant marches. Then they reverently played the traditional “Crown Imperial” for the graduates, faculty and staff to process.
The ceremony began with conferring an honorary degree on guest commencement speaker Colum McCann. An author, artist, educator, and social activist, McCann first came to Concordia to speak at the National Book Awards event on his book, “Let the Great World Spin.” He has since been working with Concordia as it created its collegial chapter of Narrative 4, an exchange program McCann co-founded that brings awareness and empathy to the other through storytelling. McCann’s message to students was the hope they would raise their voices to make “one small crack in the wall” that is keeping people apart.
“If we want to be listened to, we have to be listeners as well,” McCann said.
He commended Concordia for its works toward greater understanding of differences in story exchanges. “This is a campus that believes we can forge a path through the great grace of storytelling.”
After the degrees were conferred, Concordia graduate Mikaela Herberg ’19 delivered the student response. Herberg, a biology major who is planning to go to med school in the fall, said she has many things she will personally miss about Concordia then went straight to the commonality for her and her fellow graduates.
“We share the strong foundation of a liberal arts education,” she said, noting the power and potential each graduate holds.
Herberg noted how faculty had taught the graduates to question the world around them and think critically. Now as the newest alumni of the college, they will leave with the confidence that this college can still be a home.
“Concordia will always still be here and this place will always be ready to welcome you home,” she said.