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Convocation and Tree Planting Mark 179 years of Education at Clarke University

By Clarke News  |  September 1, 2021

Honoring a tradition that has been in place since the early days of Clarke University, all new students gathered on Wednesday, September 1 for Convocation and Tree Planting Ceremonies. The event also serves as an official welcome to those new to campus. 

Students were welcomed by President Thom D. Chesney, Ph.D., Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Eden Wales Freedman, and Clarke Student Association (CSA) President Tucker LaBelle ’22.  

Traditionally, Convocation also includes the winner of the Meneve Dunham Award for Excellence in Teaching, however as all faculty received the award for the 2020-2021 school year, President Chesney instead reflected on the exceptional challenges from the last year, as well as the incredible resilience the students, employees, and friends of the university have shown.  

“A year ago in an empty Jansen Music Hall, I stared into a camera to bring greetings to the new academic year at a safe and solemn distance. I said then that the world deserved to see that even under pandemic conditions Clarke University traditions are adaptable, resilient, and live on, Chesney said. “That resiliency is very much a part of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, one aspect of which is the ways in which we learn to deal with experience and knowledge in order to acquire true wisdom, live well, and build good societies, laws, and customs. We have all experienced a lot in the past year. How we share, shape, and use that learning will determine whether we come through this prolonged challenge stronger, smarter, and more committed than ever to contributing to the common good.” 

CSA President Tucker LaBelle followed Chesney with a greeting for new students and a reflection on his time at the University, especially the turbulence of the last few years. 

“There were times in these past two years where everywhere I looked, I would see the division of our country. It felt as if there was no good news to consume. That was until I turned off the screen and took a walk around campus,” LaBelle said. “Flowers were blooming, teams were practicing, students were laughing and most importantly the kindness and acceptance of our community was shining. I realized then more than ever that what we have here is something special.” 

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

The Tree Planting Ceremony followed Convocation. Norm Freund, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus returned to campus to provide a history of tree planting. The freshmen planted their Firefall Maple on the front lawn of Terence Donaghoe 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 Director of Campus Ministry Hunter Darrouzet. 

The senior class of 2022, whose tree is planted near Burrows Field, then named their tree. “Vincere,” which means “overcome” in Latin, represents the resiliency and indeterminable spirit of the class and the greater Clarke community.  

Dedications from the Incoming Class 

“We’d like to start by taking a moment of silence for all those that lost their lives this past year. Covid has impacted us all in unimaginable ways and with so much life lost within all of our families and close friends due to this pandemic, we’d like to dedicate this tree to a hopeful new start, and a new life for all of us here at Clarke.” – Gavin Jones 

“The branches will represent our growth at Clarke and the changing of the leaves each year will remind us of the changes we make here.” –  Addison Staszewski 

“The roots of the tree that we plant today will provide it with nourishment, strength, independence, and structure just as our journey at Clarke will help us to leave a mark in the world, provide us with personal grown, strength and independence.” –  Ludwig Metzler 

“We begin our journey together at Clarke University. Eventually, branching off pursuing our own degrees, passions, and careers. Working together, these roots hold a tree that stands as one. One family, one Clarke, one Pride. We stand tall, together, creating shared memories, just as our tree will throughout our time here at Clarke and beyond.” – Delyno Brown 

“Today, as we plant our class tree, we recognize our growth as individuals and commit to growing together. Like this seedling, we know we will endure hard times, but will branch and blossom in our journey here at Clarke.” – Rondell Juba 

Understanding our roots creates a connection and helps us to understand our family values.  They give us stories to recreate and help us to understand where our beginnings start.” – Anthony Eddy 

“The roots are where we were planted before coming to Clarke, but just like roots spread, we’re coming here to continue to grow with those around us. As we continue to grow the stump ensures we won’t waiver because we have people supporting us. When we are branching out on our own, like the leaves of a tree, even if we fall we’ll always grow back stronger than before.“ – Brittany Mundell 

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present” – Beau Smothers 

As we plant our seed in the Dubuque and Clarke communities, the roots will keep us study and grounded, while keeping us strong. We will be reminded of our integrity and dedication, while not being trembled by challenges and adversity. We will stand tall as we grow and mature.” –Josh Oziengbe

Just like a tree, our roots are being placed in order to build from and continue to blossom in the real world.” – Halle Boldt 

“Even though people try to pull you out of the ground, remember the strength of your roots and learn to use your branches to stay connected to those who helped you grow.” – Lydia Radeke 

“Roots are important, because they remind us of our origins and keep us connected and growing.” – Sydney Haas 

“Roots are important, because they provide the foundation that keeps us stable and helps us grow.” –  Benjamin Vaszuez 

“Without a strong source, a being cannot and will not gain the strength to grow to its full potential.” –  Jakobe (Kobe) Jones  

“Like branches we grow in different directions, but our roots keep us all together.” – Fonte Herbert 

As this tree is planted, so are we now part of this community. The leaves give this tree its beauty and this community is beautiful because of each individual’s diverse story. As the branches split, just as we will go our separate ways the roots keep us connected.”  Josh Roman 

“Trees make a positive impact on the earth just as education makes a positive impact on us.”  Olivia Gossard 

“The planting of seeds symbolize the students’ time in college and the tree is those students post college with all the knowledge, experience, and skill they developed at Clarke.”  Patience Yuha