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Clarke Celebrates Annual Convocation and Tree Planting

By Clarke News  |  August 30, 2023
Students listen to a speaker during the 2023 Convocation Ceremony

Clarke welcomed new and returning students and employees to campus this week with their annual convocation and tree planting ceremonies. 

The events began in the Robert & Ruth Kehl Center with addresses from Interim President Fletch Lamkin, Vice President for Academic Affairs Steve Kapelke, Dean of Academic Affairs Yvonne Zimmerman, and Associate Professor of Chemistry and winner of the 2023 Meneve Dunham Award for Excellence in Teaching Tony Breitbach. 

“Play hard, play fair, have fun,” Tony advised the incoming class. “My parents modeled the deep meaning behind such a simple saying. Whether or not these words resonate with you, my prayer for you is that you remember your values and role models as you start this new journey.” 

Advice and Support from the Clarke Community

CSA President Anne Crawford ’24, 26DPT followed with a greeting on behalf of the student body. She sought to reassure students that as they navigate this new path in their lives, they will  take on new challenges and succeed. 

“Instead of sounding like the wise senior who has it all figured out, I want to be honest with you all. The truth is, I still have a lot of anxiety and nerves about the road that lies ahead and all of the unknowns that come with it,” Anne said. “To succeed, you have to learn how to take the challenges on headfirst, rather than lying down.  As you learn to navigate these challenges, it will become easier to get up, brush off the dirt, and move on.”   

Convocation concluded with the Tassel Ceremony. This tradition is a symbolic representation of the role incoming students will play in the story of Clarke University. Navigator faculty, who work with new students during CONNECT orientation and throughout the year, presented incoming students with an official tassel. These tassels symbolize the dedication and hard work of students as they advance toward their degrees. 

Tree Planting Ceremony

Assisted by Groundskeeper Ben MacDonald, student planted a tulip tree along with their intentions for their time at Clarke. The Tree Planting Ceremony followed Convocation. Norm Freund, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, returned to campus to provide a history of tree planting. Members of the new class planted their tulip tree on the front lawn of Mary Frances Hall. Representatives from each Navigator class were also invited to share a dedication explaining what the tree symbolizes for them. These notes were then planted with the tree and blessed by Vice President for Student Life, Kate Zanger. 

The senior class of 2024, whose burr oak is planted on the back lawn behind the Wahlert Atrium, then named their tree “Unforgotten.” The name is a fitting tribute to a class who refused to let a global pandemic dim their light during their time at Clarke.