Press Release


Tuesday, December 19, 2006
by Rhonda Hufty

Hannibal, MO --When you think of graduation ceremonies several images come to mind. You most likely picture a warm spring day, a parade of friends and family filing into a large multi-purpose building, scrambling for a metal chair. The audience transforms the commencement program into a paper fan to cool themselves, as they await the arrival of the graduating class.

Think again. Picture a December day, the same parade of friends and family file into a state-of-the-art theatre, glance over the auditorium and select a cushioned seat with no obstructions to the view of a beautifully decorated stage. The temperature of the auditorium is comfortable and the commencement program is used simply as the order of service. Christmas decorations including adorned trees, wreaths and garland remind those in attendance that this is a special event. It is Hannibal-LaGrange College December Graduation day.

December 16, 2006 will go into the annuals as the first December graduation in the College's 148-year history. It has long been the plan of the HLG Administration to offer a winter commencement to those students who complete coursework requirements for their degree during the fall semester. “It allows those students who have worked hard and finished their degrees to move ahead with their diploma in hand,” said Dr. Woodrow Burt, President of Hannibal-LaGrange College.

With a record 230 graduates in May 2006, the physical need to add another graduation ceremony to the academic calendar was evident. “We decided to have a December graduation because we have reached capacity crowds during the May commencement and decided that an extra graduation would be the best solution,” said Marian Williams, professor of mathematics and chairwoman of the graduation committee. The addition of the December graduation will significantly “reduce the size of the crowd in the [Mabee] sports complex during the May graduation,” added Williams.

Large graduating classes and limited commencement seating are evidence that the College is growing. “This December commencement is especially meaningful because it is another sign of the growth of the college,” said Burt.

The Parker Theatre of the Roland Fine Arts Center was the sight of this historic event. The 640+ seat theatre was almost filled to capacity as friends and family members witnessed the processional of the HLG December Graduation Class of 2006. The keynote speaker for this momentous occasion was the 16th President of Hannibal-LaGrange College, Dr. Woodrow Burt. “I want to begin by telling you that I was asked if I would be the first December Commencement speaker,” said Burt. “Although I was initially reluctant, as you can see, I did accept the request.”

The audience quickly understood why the keynote speaker invitation was extended to Burt as he began his address to the graduates and audience by sharing a “Who's Who” among Hannibal-LaGrange College alumni. Burt listed a number of HLG graduates who walked the same halls as the December Class of 2006 and gave “where are they now” updates and success stories of each individual. “These are alumni who have gone on to make us proud. Their accomplishment—and some of them are significant—didn't come about because they wanted to make their alma mater proud,” said Burt. “People like these alumni…don't go on to become successful to make someone proud of them, they become successes because that's a part of their character and their drive,” added Burt. “Making someone proud is just a by-product of that success.” Burt continued, “Many of you, because of your character, determination, and drive will become successful. You will make us proud.”

With godly wisdom and fatherly instruction, Burt spoke about two characteristics that stand out in the lives of the alumni he praised—integrity and humility.

“Ted Engstrom gives a succinct definition of integrity: ‘Simply put, integrity is doing what you said you would do,'” quoted Burt. “It means you keep your promises.” Burt challenged the graduates to model integrity in all areas of their lives. “A promise is a holy thing, whether made to a chairman of the board—or to a child. When you come to the close of your career and look back, it won't matter what kind of cars you drove, or the house you bought; how much money you saved or how well dressed you were. But what will matter, if to no one but yourself, is that you did what was honest and right in dealing with others—that's integrity,” said Burt.

Burt went on to warn the graduates of the unhealthy side of pride. Burt quoted the famous Christian patriarch and author, C. S. Lewis on the subject of pride. “C. S. Lewis called pride ‘spiritual cancer',” said Burt. “In his Screwtape Letters, [Lewis] contended that ‘pride is a telescope turned the wrong way. It magnifies self and makes the heavens small,'” said Burt.

The president tempered the warning with balance. “There is a certain pride that is healthy. I'm proud of my children, for example. I'm proud of the accomplishment of our students and alumni,” added Burt. “But the kind of pride that causes you to want to put yourself above others is the kind of pride you will want to avoid.” Burt concluded his address “It's okay if we are proud of you, but you be humble in your accomplishments. Go out and conquer the world—MAKE US PROUD.”

The 57 members of the HLG December Graduation Class of 2006 then passed across the stage to shake hands and receive the diploma that represented the completion and reward of their years of hard work. (See related article listing local graduates and awards.)

Recognized as “Outstanding HLG Graduates” Gina L. Wyant and Tristan Robert Bevans led the class in reciting the Graduate's Pledge followed by the singing of The Scarlet and the Blue, HLG's Alma Mater.

A picture-perfect day—complete with pomp and circumstance. A historical day—full of met expectations. Humbly speaking—a proud day for Hannibal-LaGrange College.

Contact Information

Carolyn Carpenter
Director of Public Relations