Undergraduate commencement a bittersweet moment for new graduates


Students fire off streamers as “Sweet Caroline” played to close out the morning commencement ceremony for the class of 2019. The ceremony, which took place May 11 at Hilton Coliseum, honored graduates for both the spring and upcoming summer term. 

Jake Webster

Iowa State University’s 2019 undergraduate graduation commencement ceremony Saturday was bittersweet for the now-graduates the culmination of years of work and support from friends and family along the way.

Preceding the commencement was a brief, emotional video of several new Iowa State graduates detailing the journey of how they got to Iowa State and how they navigated their education there.

The commencement ceremony for the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, and Liberal Arts and Sciences began at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in Hilton Coliseum. The thousands of now-graduates spent more than 10 minutes filing in to their seats, while the band played “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Following the presentation of colors by the Naval ROTC Color Guard, Michael Madison, graduate in music, sang the national anthem.

Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen said commencement is the most important and significant ceremony that a university holds.

After a recognition of candidates graduating with distinction, honors students and those serving in the armed forces, Wintersteen spoke and asked the graduates who were moments from collecting their diplomas to move the tassels from the right to left side of their caps in line with tradition.

Graduates from the Ivy College of Business, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences then received their diplomas, in that order.

It took more than an hour to confer diplomas to the assembled students, as the thousands of new alumni shook hands with Wintersteen and passed the assembled administration and faculty.

“On behalf of the entire university community, I extend my sincerest congratulations to all of our graduates,” Wintersteen said after diplomas were handed out. “We wish you the very best and look forward to hearing from you and all about your future accomplishments.”

Alumni Association President and CEO Jeffrey Johnson then spoke about the alumni association, saying the graduates join a community of more than 260,000 in each of Iowa’s 99 counties, all 50 states and more than 150 countries around the world.

Johnson joked he hopes the new alumni do not throw away the letters he sends them in the mail, hang up on him when he calls or shut the door on him when he comes to see them. 

Wintersteen closed the commencement ceremony and Madison sang “The Bells of Iowa State,” accompanied by the band. As attendees filed out amid cardinal and gold colored confetti scattering the ground, the band played “Sweet Caroline,” Iowa State’s victory song.

Sydney Fox, graduate in psychology, said a lot of her friends are moving around the Midwest, going abroad or going home.

“I don’t think the feeling of actually graduating will hit until after summer and I’m not coming back to Ames and not seeing friends,” Fox said. “But overall, [Iowa State] was a really awesome experience for me.”

Erica Phillips, graduate in political science said it feels good to be graduating and all her hard work paid off. Phillips said she will be working with the Peace Corps after graduation.

The ceremony over after nearly two and a half hours, attendees slowly emptied out of the arena and Iowa State University bade farewell to several thousand of its newest graduates.