Saturday, May 12, was the Saint Martin’s University 2018 Commencement in Lacey, Washington. This year’s class represented students from 28 American states and territories and more than a dozen different countries. The day also honored three community icons with honorary doctor of humane letters diplomas.
The first of these recipients has been both a feature and fixture at Saint Martin’s since 1957. Abbot Neal Roth joined the Abbey 61 years ago and has since graduated from the college, taught for several years, and been elected Abbey head. Faculty President Katherine Porter, Ph.D., described Roth as “student, monk, teacher and Abbot” who “passed on his love of learning and a commitment to listening with the ear of the heart.”
The award was a surprise to Roth who, upon being decked out in his new regalia, laughed, “I didn’t know anything about it until it was sprung on me! I never anticipated—not even for a moment—what the years would bring.”
But Roth expressed gratitude for his time with both the college and Abbey, acknowledging that, “assisting students is something I think we do very well here at Saint Martin’s.” His voice broke when expressing thanks, especially admitting he’s “maybe a little proud” of the honor.
After Abbot Roth, Dr. Porter and University President Roy Heynderickx, Ph.D. presented a doctorate to Lacey’s beloved Virgil Clarkson. The city’s first African-American deputy mayor and then mayor, Clarkson has long worked to combat housing discrimination and racial bias in both police and government.
Clarkson dedicated the day “To you, graduating students, this is your day.
“Be proud of all that you have done to be in this moment, but this is not the end,” he reminded them. “Each commencement is a new beginning.” Though many people remember him as mayor, “I don’t know if it’s because of my beauty,” Clarkson chuckled, as he shared his key to life. “Do not cease to learn,” he implored, “because life can become very boring if you don’t read, observe and learn.”
Next honored was Clarkson’s wife and fellow advocate Barbara Clarkson. Porter listed her passion for equality in the workforce, including hiring, promotions, and training, as well as her love of education, and the fight to combat hunger in our community, as some of her many strengths.
Barbara Clarkson told two touching anecdotes about educators who worked hard to meet student need. “These leaders chose to use their positions to open doors,” she explained. “You are the key, not only to your success, but to the success and failure of others.” She encouraged new graduates to “be that key to open doors.”
The commencement address was by Patrick Crumb, Saint Martin’s Class of 1985 and current president of AT&T Sports Networks. The graduation lectern was familiar to Crumb as he used it for his valedictorian speech 33 years ago, even acknowledging that some of the people sharing the stage were there for both speeches. “The speech will be much shorter this time around,” he said to laughter from professors and graduates.
During the ceremony, several top students were showcased. For December’s graduating class, the valedictorian was business administration major Elizabeth Colón of Olympia and salutatorian was elementary and special education major MaCaylie Braden of Fife. The salutatorian for May’s graduating class was Lacey’s Arthur Mills, who majored in mathematics and minored in physics, while the valedictorian was dual major (a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and cultural anthropology) Forrest Campbell of Davenport, Iowa.
Campbell voiced the thoughts of many students when he acknowledged that success comes from the community more than the individual. And success at Saint Martin’s gave him a lifetime of “food for thought.” His teachers and advisors taught him how to think and not what to think, for which he is grateful.
His valedictory address closed with the perfect call to graduates eagerly waiting in the wings, “As graduates of Saint Martin’s, let us ask ourselves these two questions: If not now, when? If not me, who?”
Across the board, students from Saint Martin’s College of Education and Counseling, Hal and Inge School of Engineering, School of Business, and College of Arts and Sciences are off to exciting futures. The school’s Office of Career Development surveyed the Class of 2018 and report that 34 percent are already hired on to new jobs, while more than 25 percent are applying to or have been admitted to post graduate programs.
Find photos from the ceremony on the school’s Facebook page or purchase a commemorative DVD of the ceremony by calling Thurston Community Media at 360-956-3100.