Chain of tradition

Ivy Chain cutting ceremony

Columbia College's Ivy Chain is one of the nation's oldest continuously held commencement events, and this year's Ivy Cutters are two very special graduates

Columbia College's Ivy Chain Ceremony, first held in 1900, is the most traditional event of graduation weekend. The ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. at Bass Commons, on the circular drive of 1001 Rogers Street, Columbia, Mo., on Saturday, May 9, 2009, and will be followed by the graduation ceremony.

In the Ivy Chain Ceremony, associate, baccalaureate and master degree candidates march from the Atkins-Holman Student Commons through Rogers Gates onto Bass Commons. Candidates then have an ivy chain draped over their shoulders, symbolizing the graduates' connection with the college and their fellow classmates. Specially designated graduates, ivy cutters, then cut the ivy from each person, signifying that although now separate from Columbia College and classmates, graduates will always remain a part of Columbia College.

Each participant also receives three long-stem red roses with notes to give to people who have made a significant impact on the Ivy Chain participant's college career. This further radiates the ceremony and the tradition.
Mark Hammel

To be selected as a cutter is thus a signal honor, and students were nominated from the college's 35 nationwide and its online campuses. These are usually working adults whose families have made enormous sacrifices to achieve their dream of a college degree. The college's Adult Higher Education division selected two very special students from the nationwide campuses based on integrity, academic career, work history and commitment to their community: bachelor's degree in business administration candidates Mark Hammel of Lake County, Ill; and Veronica Thompson, of Fort Drum, N.Y.

Hammel, who works at the Lake County Press in Waukegan, Ill, graduates with a major in management and human resource management Summa Cum Laude. While a student at Columbia College, Mark was also a member of the Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honor Society.

Thompson, recently discharged from the Army as an E-4 specialist, also graduates with a major in human resource management. While a student, Veronica also participated in coed soccer. She also is a member of Heroes at Home, an organization that helps military personnel celebrate, honor, and stay in touch with their heroes at home; and of MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers).
Their personal statements speak volumes. Here is Hammel's:

I have gained an understanding of and have a real appreciation for the commitment it takes to go back to college as an adult. I understand the true ongoing dedication that it takes, not just to show up for class each evening after a full day’s work… I also understand the sacrifices your loved ones make, and that it’s important to recognize them for that.

Over the years, using the knowledge and skills that I acquired through Columbia College, I have increased my circle of influence within my company by proving my competency, displaying leadership skills and building trust to the point that I have been invited to participate on several steering and policy committees. For example, I came up with a new process last year and worked directly with manufacturing to develop it. That new process yielded over $1,548,400 in additional sales over the one year period following its implementation and represents a 3.1 percent increase in last year’s overall sales.

Workplace success and advancement is a compelling reason to go back to school. But proving your worth to a world that expects you to fail maybe even more compelling.
Here is Thompson's statement:

My journey to completing my bachelor's degree has not been easy… Growing up, the odds were stacked against me. I came from a poor Mexican background and the only expectations for my life and future were to drop out of school after I turned 15 and become a mother (not necessarily a married one, either). I did drop out, and became the statistic I always dreaded I would be.

Thompson relates how in 1989 she attended what should have been her high school graduation in Texas, crying as her friends received their diplomas. She became determined to do something with her life, and earned a GED in 1990. Next year, she joined the U.S. Army National Guard for workplace experience and a college degree. That's when things got really complicated.

After joining the Army, I met my husband and we started a family. With a full-time job and being a full-time mother, college was a challenge. Over the next 15 years, college came and went and my dream of completing any degree seemed unreachable.

But Thompson did not give up, and her dream became a reality in upstate New York at the college's Fort Drum campus. And she says she doesn’t want to stop with her baccalaureate:

My struggles have allowed me to be an example to my children and family back home in Texas. It shows them hard work does pay off! I am the first on both my mom's and dad's family to go this far. Before, it was expected of me to accept what came my way … now I speak to my nieces, nephews, younger cousins and other children of the importance of pursuing their education.

Columbia College is honored to have these two radically different but remarkably similar graduates cut the ivy for the Class of 2009.


Anonymous said...

That is awesome Thompson!