My First Commencement – Bakersfield College’s 99th!

Dr. Sonya Christian at Bakersfield College's 99th Commencement

Sonya Christian at BC’s 99th Commencement

May 10, 2013 was BC’s 99th commencement.  My first as president.

Faculty, staff, and administration marched into Memorial Stadium, ready and excited to celebrate the hard work and determination of every single Bakersfield College student. Those who have never been to a Bakersfield College commencement had little idea what these dedicated professionals had planned for the night – but the accoutrements were tucked neatly under their gowns: bubbles, horns, noisemakers, and more!

Following the faculty and staff, the music, provided live by members of the Bakersfield College band and orchestra, switched to “Pomp and Circumstance,” which is the traditional commencement march for colleges and universities. Students came streaming into Memorial Stadium to the shouts and cheers of family and friends, before taking their seats and staring up into the crowd in awe and wonder.

After some opening preliminaries, including the presentation of the American and California flags by a huge contingent of Boy Scouts, we heard from our resident anthem singer, Dr. John Gerhold, who sang a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” which brought tears to my eyes.

The night’s honored speakers followed Dr. Gerhold, which included Kern Community College District Board of Trustees member Pauline Larwood, Kern Community College District Associate Vice Chancellor Dr. Michele Bresso, Vice President of the Academic Senate Michael Korcok, and Bakersfield College Student Government Association President and member of the class of 2013 Danitza Romo.

As I spent the next hour or so congratulating each and every student and presenting them their diplomas, I am reminded of the transformative power of education. Each student had their own hopes, their own dreams, and on commencement night, I was part of it.

Faculty and Staff Celebrate the Class of 2013

Faculty and staff form a tunnel to celebrate the class of 2013!

Remember those hidden treasures our faculty and staff snuck in? They came out and were enthusiastically used as students started receiving their diplomas. Each student walks a route from their chair, to the announcement area, to me, then through the cadre of faculty and staff who are ready to give high-fives, hugs, and make as much noise as possible for their students. The celebratory atmosphere was very, very energizing.

We kept it up until every last diploma was presented. As we finished the night, the faculty and staff created a tunnel to the edge of the stadium, and every graduate walked through the rows of celebratory cheers and hugs.

We attempted a new routine in handing out diplomas with two lines rather than one and shortened the duration of the event by 30 minutes which was very well received by all.

Check out Tom Moran’s commencement collection which is at

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One thought on “My First Commencement – Bakersfield College’s 99th!

  1. Ken M. August 11, 2013 at 2:25 pm Reply

    99 years! Not many colleges have been serving students for that length of time. The celebration next year for the centennial should be hugely significant for both the college and Bakersfield community. That post is not to be missed! That the faculty were attending and so engaged in making the graduation meaningful as well as fun is a testament their dedication. You do not find this at every college. They have made it clear they support the goals of their students both in the classroom and in their lives. Nicely done BC faculty! You give personal meaning to the community college mission.

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