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BW Celebrates Two Graduating Classes at 170th and 171st Commencement Ceremonies

After a year on hold due to the pandemic, the pageantry of commencement day was back at Baldwin Wallace University on Saturday, May 8, when BW celebrated both May and December 2020 graduates and May 2021 grads in three ceremonies.

Held outdoors at George Finnie Stadium, with physical distancing and masks in place, the 170th and 171st BW Commencement ceremonies, at 9 a.m., 12:30 and 4 p.m., marked the momentous milestone of college graduation.

Chilly spring weather was no match for the warmth and joy of the celebration, led by BW President Bob Helmer. After a charge read by Agnes Dover '76, chair of the BW Board of Trustees, each graduate was announced by name and took a triumphant walk across the stage at the south end of the stadium.

2020 grads encouraged to 'tell their stories'

BW Commencement May 2021Addressing about 200 returning 2020 graduates (out of 900 who earned BW degrees during 2020) at the 9 a.m. ceremony, Playhouse Square President & CEO Gina Vernaci acknowledged the challenges of the past year, traced her own precarious journey to success and referenced lyrics from the smash hit musical "Hamilton" throughout her motivational remarks.

"When you are facing the obstacles that will come your way, it is not the circumstances that define you," Vernaci said. "It will be what YOU do about it. YOU will define your destiny. It is you who 'tells your story.'"

President Helmer and Provost Stephen Stahl presented Vernaci with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree following her speech.

Class of 2021 urged to 'make it happen'

BW Commencement May 2021Victor Ruiz '99, executive director of Esperanza, delivered an inspiring address at two afternoon ceremonies staged for approximately 680 May 2021 grads.

Ruiz, who was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Public Service at the 4 p.m. ceremony, reflected on the lessons learned from the challenges of the past year and summed them up in closing.

"Go out into this world with urgency and without fear, be vulnerable, open-minded, make mistakes, ask for help and put together a team that has your back," he encouraged the graduates. "Take advantage of your privileges, your education, your status to benefit you, your family and your fellow human beings. Fight for equity and oppose hate."

"Lastly," he continued. "Do not let anyone tell you to stay in your lane or to wait your turn. The world moves too fast and changes too suddenly to sit back and wait for things to happen. So, make it happen."

Academic Honors

BW Commencement May 2021Special recognition for high-achieving members of the Class of 2021 started with the announcement of Jacob Luther '21 as the winner of the prestigious Milton T. Baldwin Prize, established in 1859 and given to the graduate who represents the highest academic achievement at BW. Luther scored a perfect 4.0 all four years at BW en route to earning a B.A. in Finance and German.

An impressive number of those earning undergraduate degrees at all three ceremonies graduated with honors: 93 were acknowledged for achieving summa cum laude honors with a cumulative grade point average of 3.90 or higher; 120 graduated magna cum laude with at least a 3.75; while another 74 earned cum laude honors with at least a 3.60.

Elite groups of students in the Dayton C. Miller Honor Society and the Honors Program were also applauded.

Super Seniors

Ten graduates were recognized as 2021 Outstanding Seniors for overall excellence and contributions to campus life, including academics, leadership, service and involvement on and off campus.

The 2021 graduating seniors acknowledged for demonstrating excellence in all areas of their University endeavors are: Aubrey Baumler, Stanley Bleich, Chris Bradshaw, Elijah Green, Clare Helmer, Emma Hubbard, Justin Lew, Hana Najm, Erin Neff and Haley Wieszecinksi.

BW Senior Class Officers were also recognized: Noah Kostick, president; Matthew Butt, vice president; Joseph Bernardo, secretary; and Jamie Alexander, treasurer.

The 2020 Milton T. Baldwin and Outstanding Seniors are among the many honors linked here.

Pomp, circumstance and tradition

BW Commencement May 2021Steeped in cherished traditions, BW Commencement weekend also included a Friday afternoon White Rose Ceremony, recognizing select young women while honoring Philura Gould Baldwin, granddaughter of BW founder John Baldwin. She helped establish the BW library and the University's brown and gold colors.

During the Saturday events, each senior class added distinctively colored ribbons to the "ring of ribbons" in a ritual that ties BW grads together from generation to generation and includes the colors of every graduating class since 1915.

Live stream replay and photos

Graduates in the Classes of 2020 and 2021 now take their places among nearly 50,000 BW alumni or "Yellow Jackets for Life" (YJ4L) who have come before them since the school's founding in 1845.

BW will preserve and share memories of the big day in several ways.

TV graphicView a Boxcast replay of the full ceremony at the links below.

flickr iconTo view, download and share general photos, visit BW on Flickr and look for the 2021 Commencement Albums. Please note: A free Flickr account is required to download photos, and photos may not be uploaded for several days after commencement.

Facebook logoInstagram logoYou can also visit the BW Facebook and Instagram accounts in the week following commencement as we add galleries of photos from the event.

Graduates may also order professional photos from GradImages, which captures photos and sends proofs directly to each grad. Contact GradImages at (800) 261-2576 or with any questions.

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