One year later, Marietta’s Class of 2020 graduates in-person in DBRC

It was more intimate than a typical Marietta College Commencement ceremony, but for the nearly 50 graduates and their families who returned to campus on Sunday, May 2, appearing in-person to graduate was exactly what they needed – and wanted.

“It feels like a reunion seeing everybody, but seeing everybody in the robes makes it more formal,” said Alexander Kirsch (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). “But I haven’t seen everyone in a year, so it feels good to get back together.”

Amanda Carpenter Farish (Zanesville, Ohio) added, “It feels good to be back and see friends. We’re all excited to be here.”

On May 3, 2020, the College conducted a virtual Commencement and welcomed approximately 175 graduates into The Long Blue Line. On that day, President Bill Ruud promised the graduates that when the time was right, the College would welcome them back for a “Commencement ceremony you have earned and deserve.”

Katie Detsch (Kane, Pennsylvania) had her doubts.

“I really only thought we would have our virtual commencement, and I’d have to be OK with only having a virtual commencement,” she said. “But once the emails started coming, I was kind of in denial at first and I didn’t believe it would feel as normal as it actually feels. It feels like you’re just catching up with these people with who you spent a lot of your life with.”

While there were only about 50 graduates attending Sunday’s graduation, there are approximately 175 members of the Class of 2020 that President Ruud and Provost Janet Bland welcomed into The Long Blue Line in front of approximately 300 family and friends at the Dyson Baudo Recreation Center. The College limited the number of people who could attend the ceremony due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The graduates who were in attendance received a surprise. During Saturday’s graduation for the Class of 2021, the Commencement speaker Mike Salvino ’87 gave each graduate a Dell Latitude 3190 2-in-1 computer. Salvino made sure there were enough computers for those attending on Sunday.

Johnathan Kungle (Uniontown, Ohio), who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Petroleum Engineering, was the class valedictorian, while Alexandra Kirsch (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology, was the salutatorian.

The Jewett Orations, which remain a traditional part of Marietta’s Commencement, were not part of last year’s virtual commencement, so the top two placers could present at the in-person ceremony.

Ryan Menapace (Galena, Ohio), who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry, took the top spot, while Ashley Olszewski (Elyria, Ohio), who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science, finished second.

Menapace returned on Sunday to deliver “Embrace the Fear.”

“(Now more than four years ago) I made one of my many trips to Marietta, Ohio, with my parents the night before my first-year orientation. I found myself excited and also a tad bit nervous, which I assumed everybody else probably felt at the time,” he said. “However, the following morning was a much different story because, as I will now easily admit, I was absolutely terrified. I wanted no part of orientation or school.”

Despite his fear, Menapace decided to do something brave.

“However, after about 10 minutes I thought to myself, ‘maybe I should just embrace this fear apprehension, embrace this new opportunity and try to make something special out of it,’ ” he said. “Well, I took one step out of that hotel room and the rest was history.”

Olszewski was unable to return to campus, but submitted a video of her delivering “Climbing Mountains.”

“What senior year has brought us is preparation for the next mountain that we will climb, and while the year may not have ended the way we thought it would, we still have our cherished memories to look back on and new skills to carry into the next stage of our lives,” she said. “I learned from my backpacking trip that no obstacle is impossible to overcome and that it is okay when your plan changes because sometimes it leads you to somewhere even better. I have taken this lesson into my life and allowed it to guide me and bring me closer to finding my purpose.”

The College also recognized 18 students as Pioneer Scholars – individuals who scored in the top 20 percent of their class on the ETS Proficiency Exam. The Pioneers Scholars are Matthew Chih (Worthington, Ohio), Cameron Cantley (Vincent, Ohio), Lucas Danford (Marietta, Ohio), Rachel Ewing (Stockton, California), Thomas Farish (Fairview Park, Ohio), Austin Fligor (Middletown, Ohio), Quinci Jones (New Concord, Ohio), Maicy Kirk (Lewis Center, Ohio), Ashley Klopfenstein (Cicero, Indiana), Carter Lang (Lowell, Ohio), Lauren Rockocy (North Royalton, Ohio), Robert Sheridan (Marietta, Ohio), Sophia Traussi (Stratford, Connecticut), Sequoya Yates (Idaho Falls, Idaho), Detsch, Kirsch, Kungle and Olszewski.

The Class of 2020 honored one faculty member – Dr. Michael Tager, Professor in Political Science, as he was presented the Outstanding Faculty Award.

Located in Marietta, Ohio, at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio rivers, Marietta College is a four-year liberal arts college. Tracing its roots to the Muskingum Academy back in 1797, the College was officially chartered in 1835. Today Marietta College serves a body of 1,200 full-time students. The College offers more than 50 majors and is consistently ranked as one of the top regional comprehensive colleges by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, as well as one of the nation’s best by Marietta was selected seventh in the nation according to the Brookings Institution’s rankings of colleges by their highest value added, regardless of major. Marietta College has also been named a Great College to Work For three consecutive years (2018-2020).