Three hundred and twenty-five members of the Class of 2017 graduated on Sunday, May 21, at Centre College’s 194th Commencement ceremony in Newlin Hall at the Norton Center for the Arts. New York Times best-selling author J.D. Vance delivered the Commencement address.
The Class of 2017, representing 24 states and four foreign countries, not only ranks as one of the largest in Centre’s history but among the most impressive.
With a four-year graduation rate of 84 percent—joining the highest college graduation rates in the nation—seventy-eight students graduated with honors: 38 Cum Laude, 33 Magna Cum Laude and 7 Summa Cum Laude. Among the class were 37 members of Phi Beta Kappa, 10 Brown Fellows, nine Posse Scholars, 16 Bonner Scholars and seven John C. Young Scholars.
A total of 83 percent of the graduates studied abroad or away during their four years at Centre, contributing to the College’s #3 national ranking for global study by the Institute of International Education.
Shuqi Liu and Harrison Kyle Kirby were recognized as this year’s valedictorians.
Liu, of Kunming, China, received the Gavin Easton Wiseman Valedictorian Prize for the top female graduate. Graduating summa cum laude, the mathematics major additionally received The Sallie Warfield Memorial Prize, awarded to the student with the highest standing in mathematics.
Kirby, of Louisville, Kentucky, received the George Winston Welsh Valedictorian Prize for the top male senior. An economics and finance and environmental science double major graduating summa cum laude, Kirby also received The Harry Landreth Economics Prize, awarded to a well-rounded student of economics.
The Class of 2017 now joins the 97 percent of Centre alumni who either attend graduate school or are employed within a year of graduation. Among the varied pursuits are three graduates who will go on to participate in Teach For America: Annalea Wilson, who will be teaching in Memphis, Tennessee; Mary-Chapin Snow, who will work in Indianapolis; and Madison Stuart, who will teach in Hawaii.
In Vance’s Commencement address to the Class of 2017, he reminded the graduates to always remember those who have helped them get where they are today.
“Recognize how incredibly important the people in your life are,” Vance said. “The people who helped make you who you are deserve your gratitude and thanks. Don’t forget those who made sacrifices for you.”
Vance also reminded students that life after Centre isn’t just about landing the perfect job.
“The tendency will be to chase credentials,” he said. “Your work is not your entire life. Follow the people who matter the most. Never forget where you come from.”
During the Commencement ceremony, Vance received an honorary doctor of laws.
Sarah Hutchinson, president of the Student Government Association, gave the senior class response, encouraging her classmates to not forget the last four years at Centre and what they experienced.
“We attended Centre to learn, to be challenged, to impact our community for the better, to serve those around us,” Hutchinson said. “As we move forward, let us make sure we do not forget, and that we embrace the opportunities and struggles before us, because in the last four years, it is clear that if anyone can achieve these goals, it is us, the Centre College Class of 2017.”
President John A. Roush closed the ceremony with his own congratulations and words of wisdom to the graduates.
“Your story is strong—very strong,” Roush said. “But, it now falls to you to continue the story, your story—stories of accomplishment, stories of doing right, stories of learning, leadership and service, stories of passion and compassion, stories of extraordinary measure.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
May 22, 2017