What might have been the final graduating class at Iowa Wesleyan University walked across the stage and received their degrees on Thursday, Dec. 6.
The commencement ceremoney was held in the University Chapel at 2 p.m., and was presided over by President Steven Titus.
Financial troubles rocked the school this past year, putting into question whether or not the school would remain open beyond this semester. The university announced in November it needed $2.1 million in order to remain open through the spring 2019 semester. The school has managed to right itself for the time being. The university has created a task force to find innovative ways to stay open beyond next semester.
Commencement was a time for celebration, however. In the balconies overlooking the stage was a choral groupl ed by Blair Buffington performing “MLK,” a lullaby written by U2 to honor the death of the Civil Rights leader. Following the performance, President Titus declared that watching the singers perform he “felt like [he] was looking at angels.”
Dr. Jason Edwards — 2018 Chadwick teacher of the year — gave the graduation speech this year delivering the message that “one never reaches an end point while living.”
Graduate Noah R. Conley knew that although his time at IW had come to a close, his affiliation with the school was just beginning. Conley attended IW for 3 1/2 years. Like many, he was rattled by the school’s financial troubles earlier this year. “I was very worried for people I came in with in 2015 because I was supposed to graduate with them next semester.”
Had the school not found the funds they required, many of Conley’s classmates would have been left without a college just one semester away from graduating.
He witnessed some his classmates panic both in conversation and during his work-study hours for the school. “A lot of people lost faith,” Conley said. “I saw so many transfer requests coming in.”
Despite the rocky road, Conley found pleasure in his experience. “I loved it,” he said. “It feels like last week was my freshman year, that’s how strong the memories are, it’s like family here. I’ve got a couple of my professors’ cellphone numbers, I can text them and be like ‘hey what’s up, man.’ The professors honestly care about you and they will do anything in their power to help you succeed. We are their top priority.”
Similarly enthused was Dakota Howard, who graduated with a music degree.
He recalled falling in love with the campus on his first visit, being heartbroken to hear of its financial troubles, and being elated to discover the school would remain open.
“My exerpeince has been bar-none, unmatched by anyplace else I could have gone,” Howard said. “The first time I came on campus for a visit I knew this place was for me, I knew it was a perfect fit and we have tremendous faculty here who would be darned to see their students not succeed. You don’t get that kind of experience anywhere else.”
While rattled by the seemingly inevitable closing of the school, he felt there was always going to be something that would happen to save the school, a “miracle” of some sort.
“It was kind of crazy to think that something like that could have been possible,” he said. “With the sheer amount of dedication the faculty have to this place, the sheer amount of support this institution has in southeast Iowa, no one would let this place go by the wayside.”