University Park, IL,
14:41 PM

2018 Baccalaureate for First Freshmen

The air was charged with excitement as Governors State University’s (GSU) first freshmen, now seniors, gathered with loved ones, faculty and university VIPs to mark their matriculation in a historic Baccalaureate Cording Ceremony.

Images of their freshman faces scrolled across monitors staged in the Hall of Governors, adding an air of nostalgia to the elegant evening of congratulations and reflection set against a soothing backdrop of neo-soul. 

The cording ceremony marks the matriculation of the pioneering freshman class who led the transformation of Governors State from an upper division school to a full-service, four-year university. It is the university’s first-ever Baccalaureate for its first-ever freshmen.

“What an accomplishment for each of you, and what an accomplishment for this university,’’ said GSU President Elaine P. Maimon. “We were going through a transformation just at the time you were going through the transformation of your college experience. You joined us as we, together, were building a structured undergraduate program.’’

During the ceremony, President Maimon and Board of Trustees Chairman Pat Ormsby adorned the graduates in colorful cords and awarded them lofty framed certificates proclaiming “First Class Forever. GSU’s Inaugural Freshman Class.”

Ormsby recalled when the group first met at the 2014 convocation as the inaugural freshman class. The ceremony, a GSU tradition to welcome new students, was the first ever attended by freshmen, and they received black and white braided cords marked with a hopeful “2018.”

That night, students committed themselves to a rigorous curriculum created for them, and set their sights on blazing a trail to graduation. During the Baccalaureate ceremony, Ormsby congratulated students and families. The cording ceremony kicks off three celebrations leading up to the full commencement on Saturday. 

“Tonight, we will drape a new cord around your neck—that original black and white now braided with GSU’s background colors of grey and orange,’’ he said. “You met your goal. You will soon become graduates of Governors State Universityour first freshman class and a permanent part of GSU history.’’

Simone Jones was humbled by the distinction.

“It is a sincere honor to be a part of the first freshman graduating class,’’ said Jones, a Community Health major who also will speak during Saturday’s full Commencement ceremony. “There is something about taking a risk that gives me a butterfly feeling. Being a first generation college student was a risk in itself."

Risks brought rewards as the first freshmen created policies and programs and “rocked” the GSU campus, said graduating Student Senate President Justin Smith, a Business major.

“Our class introduced the campus to the youthfulness and charisma of younger students,’ said Smith, also set to speak on Saturday.

Following a night of looking back on firsts, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Aurélio Valente closed out the evening with a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote.

“ ‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,’’’ Valente shared with the students. “You chose to go where there was no path and create a trail. Now, because of you, someone else will have a trail to follow and make deeper. Because of you, GSU is forever changed. We grew because of you.”