WILMINGTON — Where else but at a small, hands-on learning institution with a hallmark for personal attention would the president, provost and chief academic officer don their academic regalia and re-enact the commencement ceremony — for one student — three days after the formal ceremony?
While Wilmington College held its 146th annual Commencement last weekend, graduating senior Brooke Pitts, an equine business management major from Hideaway Hills, was among three equestrian team members competing at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s nationals in Harrisburg, Pa.
She placed fourth in the nation in the Level I Division as teammates Ciara Lawson was seventh in the Open Division and Ashley Howard placed 10th in the Rookie Division.
College officials felt that, since Pitts was representing WC at the prestigious competition, she should have an opportunity to dress in cap and gown and receive her diploma in front of family members with at least a degree of the pomp and circumstance experienced by her fellow Class of 2022 graduates.
The audience included her family, equestrian coach and program director, and other members of the President’s Cabinet of College leadership.
“It was so nice, very thoughtful,” she said about the gesture.
Pitts processed into the T. Canby Jones Meetinghouse following President Trevor Bates, Provost Erika Goodwin and Academic Dean Kenn Patterson to the same music – the Ukrainian National Anthem — that was played on Saturday.
“Walking in, I thought, ‘I’m actually graduating.’ It was a very cool experience.”
Goodwin offered an invocation while Bates summarized his Commencement address about setbacks and troubles serving as “training for more challenging times.” He also individualized his keynote.
“Brooke, you are sitting here today because you are stronger than anything you’ve faced up to this point,” Bates said. “Wilmington College is a better place, a more fulfilled place because of our students, students like Brooke.”
Bates, Goodwin and Patterson then conferred her Bachelor of Science degree and the president presented her diploma.
As meaningful as the ceremony was, there was nowhere else she would have rather been last weekend than the IHSA Nationals. “I thought at the time in Pennsylvania that I’m here showing horses while everyone’s back in Wilmington graduating — but that’s fine!”