Bridgewater College

BRIDGEWATER, Va. — Bridgewater College recognized 282 undergraduate and 35 master’s students receiving degrees on Saturday, May 4, during the College’s 144th Commencement ceremony. The degrees were conferred by Dr. David W. Bushman, president of Bridgewater College.

After Grand Marshal Dr. Amanda Campbell, professor of health and human sciences, called the ceremony to order, seniors Elizabeth Mumbert of Port Republic, Va., and Merary Mejia-Contreras of Harrisonburg, Va., shared an invocation in English and Spanish.

Dr. Bushman welcomed the thousands of students, family and friends to the ceremony and commended them for their support of the graduates: “These are not easy times for higher education…. I wish the skeptics could be here today to see that the real value of higher education lives in the students who will soon walk across this stage and in their lives that you have helped transform.”

Chair of the College’s Board of Trustees D. Bruce Christian P’06 then spoke to the Class of 2024, noting that they began their college career in the midst of a global pandemic: “August 2020 seems so long ago… Now these four years have flown by as Bridgewater and you persevered through the gyrations of COVID and other tumults, and both you and the College stand stronger today.”

President of the College’s Alumni Association Jill Early ’91 congratulated the graduates and encouraged them to remain engaged with the College.

Briana Roach ’23, M’24 spoke on behalf of the graduate program candidates. Roach, a master of science in psychology student from Rockingham, Va., quoted the late football coach Vince Lombardi—“The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall”—and encouraged graduates not to fear failures: “While reflecting, I urge you not to mourn these falls, but to take pride in each time you stood up again and kept going, for you would not be walking across this stage today if you had remained on the ground.”

Senior Class President Molly Louderback, a family and consumer sciences major from Stanley, Va., presented the class gift. The class of 2024 selected the Eagle Fund, the College’s current-use scholarship fund, as the designation for their class gift.

Aidan Keller, recipient of the 2024 Bridgewater College Founder’s Day Award and a health and exercise science and Spanish double major from Strasburg, Va., framed his reflections with lyrics from singer/songwriter Zach Bryan: “This is, the greatest day of my life… Years are just moments in a great big pile.” Keller encouraged his fellow graduates to think of the memories that they accumulated during their time at Bridgewater not as a pile, but as shards of glass that make up the mosaic of their lives: “Each time that we have an experience (positive or negative), each shard of glass is carefully crafted into the larger mosaic that we are as people. After our time at Bridgewater, we each possess a unique and special mosaic that consists of the people we met, the things that we learned and each day we lived.”

Following the reflection, music major Kwinton Banks performed “No Distance Left to Run.”

After the performance, Dr. Bushman and Provost and Executive Vice President Dr. Leona A. Sevick presented presidents’ medals to Dr. William E. Abshire, professor of philosophy and religion, emeritus, who is retiring from Bridgewater after 37 years of service,and Dr. Oskar Scheikl, former Superintendent of Rockingham County Public Schools. The medal is awarded for distinguished service and a demonstrated commitment to the highest ideals of Bridgewater College and is inscribed with the College seal and the College’s ideals of goodness, truth, beauty and harmony.

Dr. Scheikl served as the Commencement speaker for 2024. In his address, “Self and Service,” Scheikl urged graduates to take care of themselves so that they could take care of others and live life to the fullest: “Focusing on self and service requires the realization that it’s not all about you and those close to you. It’s about everyone.”

Scheikl reminded the graduates of the challenges they had already faced—from the Covid-19 pandemic to the current political conflicts—and that their education had prepared them to make a difference in the world: “You have had wonderful opportunities here at Bridgewater. You have been exposed to diversity of thought and a diverse community. There is a long history of universities providing students with access to a range of views. There is also a long history of opposing this diversity of thought. Academic freedom still means something. Continue to be open to the ideas of others. Be open to others…. Don’t get discouraged by the difficulty of the questions. Keep searching for answers. You are the most educated, open-minded, inclusive and globally focused generation of all time. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t tackle complex and ambiguous problems.” 

Among the 282 undergraduate students in the class of 2024, 139 earned bachelor of arts degrees and 143 earned bachelor of science degrees. Twenty-seven members of the class graduated summa cum laude—the top academic honor which requires students to achieve at least a 3.9 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. Forty graduates earned magna cum laude honors—a 3.7 or better average. Cum laude honors, requiring a 3.4 grade point average, were earned by 42 graduates.

Bridgewater College graduated students from four different master’s programs. Seven students graduated with a master of science in psychology—mental health professions; five students graduated with a master of arts in digital media strategy; seven students graduated with a master of science in athletic training; and 16 students graduated with a master of science in human resource management.

Media Contact:
Heather Cole
Editor & Director of Media Relations

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