A ‘Bittersweet’ Moment

Laughs, And A Few Tears As BC Celebrates 133rd Commencement

Posted: May 20, 2013

Bridgewater College graduate Stephanie Cheek, 21, from Bedford, invokes Dr. Seuss with the message on her mortarboard. The college graduated over 300 at its spring commencement on Saturday. (Photos by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Katherine Bradford, 23, from Kinsale, points out her degree to family at the end of Bridgewater College’s commencement on Saturday.
Williams C. Mims, a Virginia Supreme Court Justice and Harrisonburg native, addresses graduates during the ceremony.
HARRISONBURG — Last, but not least.

That’s Jenifer Nicole Zeiler’s mantra.

With a name like hers, you get programmed to accept coming in last, alphabetically. But the Bridgewater College alum, who was the last of the candidates for May graduation to walk across the stage Saturday, certainly wasn’t last according to class rank.

She was one of 64 students who graduated cum laude out of a class of 301 at the college’s 133rd commencement Saturday morning in Nininger Hall. The ceremony was moved from the campus mall due to rain.

After waiting for their daughter’s name to be called for about two hours, her parents, Marj and Mike Zeiler, of Lutherville, Md., excitedly watched their youngest child waltz across the stage.

“She’s used to being at the end; it’s actually easier,” Marj Zeiler said before running off to meet her newest college graduate.

“I don’t know if it’s hit me completely yet,” said Jenifer Zeiler, a liberal studies major who plans to teach elementary school. “Four years went by so fast.”

The day was emotional for many, including Interim President Roy Ferguson Jr.

“I’d also like to say my own special ‘thank you’ to the class of 2013,” he said, before taking a long pause to hold back any budding tears. 

“You guys are sort of my class,” he added before an eruption of applause. 

Ferguson has served in the role since former President George Cornelius stepped down in the spring of last year. David Bushman, dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., has been named president and will assume the role this summer.

William C. Mims, a justice on the Supreme Court of Virginia, gave the commencement address.

Mims, who has served as Virginia’s attorney general and as a member of the state’s House of Delegates and Senate, grew up in Harrisonburg and went to the city’s public schools.

He encouraged the graduates to adhere to longstanding guiding principles outlined in Bridgewater College’s mission statement — integrity, equality, service and community — in the midst of the Internet revolution that has defined their generation.

The first public website was created in 1991, the year many of the graduates were born, he reminded the audience.

“In one generation, the Internet revolution has engulfed our society,” he said. “The critical question for your generation is, ‘What comes after the revolution?’”

 Many graduates hope to exemplify the core values Mims spoke of, including Tyler Goss.

One of only 14 honor graduates, Goss plans to volunteer overseas for the next two years before returning to the U.S. to enroll in seminary.

But even with a stream of exciting plans, he’s sad to leave what’s been his home for the past four years.
“It’s bittersweet, because Bridgewater’s such a community,” he said.

Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or csipos@dnronline.com

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