By: Rebecca Reese, News Editor
The 2016 Robing Ceremony took place yesterday in the Alexander Twilight Theatre.
The Robing Ceremony is when graduating seniors at Lyndon State College receive their caps and gowns before commencement. Along with caps and gowns, awards were also presented to deserving graduates.
The theater was about three quarters of the way full with students, faculty, administration and family. Booming applause filled the room, silenced by Professor William Cotte playing the piano.
Interim Academic Dean Nolan Atkins began the ceremony, followed by President Joseph Bertolino welcoming all to the event.
Atkins commented on the enthusiasm of the Class of 2016. Then, Bertolino took a moment to thank Cotte and the Visual Arts student who designed the program.
Ryan Jenot introduced Donna Smith who, according to Jenot, is also known as the “newsroom mom.”
“I am humbled and honored to be chosen,” Smith said.
Assistant Electronic Journalism Arts Professor Donna Smith told her story about how she ended up on stage speaking at Lyndon State College.
“Let me tell you graduates, I know how you’re feeling right now because I was sitting where you are,” Smith said. “No, but really, I was sitting exactly where you are. On this very day at this very college about to graduate for the program which I now teach.”
20 years ago, Smith graduated as part of the class of 1996.
She described her story as the “journey from one of those seats to this stage”.
Smith never imagined that she would be a faculty member at Lyndon State. Her advice to graduating students is to “sit back, relax, get comfortable. Just not too comfortable. My charge is to talk to you today about comfort zones.”
According to Smith, it’s when you step outside of your comfort zones, “That’s where really all the good stuff happens.”
She expected to follow in her family’s footsteps. Graduate high school, get a good job, work hard. Though Smith said, “education never was really the focus of my life.”
All of her friends were beginning their journey after high school, but by taking a different path– going to college.
“So I decided I was going to go to college too,” Smith said.
No one in her family had gone to college and Smith said she was not labeled as college material. “But I was determined I was going to go to college,” she said.
Smith applied to Keene, the University of New Hampshire, Casleton University and Lyndon State College. Every letter she received was a rejection letter, except for Lyndon.
However, Smith said that Lyndon was her first choice.
“It always felt like home,” she said.
Then Smith left after one semester to be with her boyfriend. She moved home and got three jobs. Two years later “I got dumped” she said.
Smith then decided to pick up where she left off and went back to LSC as a 20 year old freshman in the fall of 1992. This time she stuck with it and graduated in 1996. After graduation, she took job at WMUR.
“I had an amazing career in television,” she said. But then Smith left and pushed herself out of her comfort zone yet again.
“This place had a powerful impact on me and I wanted to give back,” Smith said. “And summers off would be nice.”
Some of the highlights of Smith’s career included working as part of NH Chronicle — where she interviewed celebrities, ziplined and went to restaurants. Smith described her office as being four times the size of her current office. Why did she leave? Smith decided she was too comfortable.
The next challenge for Smith was going to grad school. She enrolled at Johnson College and said this was the “first time education and learning was actually fun.”
School again was never her strong suit, but Smith pushed herself to do it. “Living outside of my comfort zone is where I wanted to live,” she said.
Smith’s most recent challenge was taking up running as an outlet.
“The idea of running any distance that was greater than from my couch to the fridge was overwhelming,” she said.
Of course, Smith decided she needed a new challenge.
“As I navigated all of these changes in life, it started to dawn on me life itself is ever changing,” Smith said. “Life is a series of celebrations and sometimes big disappointments and that’s okay. There’s a lesson in all of it.”
Student speaker Kiley Hayes was the next to speak and talked about compassion, which aligns with this year being the Year of Compassion.
Hayes ended by sharing a quote with the audience. “Love and compassion are subsidies not luxuries, without them humanity cannot survive,” she said.
President Bertolino then invited all graduates to rise and put on their academic robes. A few minutes pass, while students struggle to open the plastic package it came in. Even Bertolino took notice to the struggling seniors.
After a few laughs, Bertolino said, “These robes represent your successful years at Lyndon and your many friends here. You will always be welcome here. Congratulations.”
290 students will be graduate on Sunday, May 15. The graduating class is one of the largest classes in LSC’s history.