Columbia College–Christian County graduate relives Ivy Chain experience

Ivy Chain participants
Gail Veri and Danny Small
When one considers their upcoming commencement ceremony, thoughts are focused on the walk across the stage to accept the coveted diploma. Columbia College is blessed to have another tradition that takes place on the morning of every graduation day on the main campus in Columbia, Mo. Since 1900, graduating seniors have celebrated one of the oldest commencement ceremonies in America: the Ivy Chain Ceremony.

Graduates meet in the Atkins-Holman Student Commons where they are draped in one continuous chain of ivy. This chain represents students’ connection to the college and to one another. As one stands draped with fellow graduates, the symbolism is not lost — the connection to each other and to the college’s history and tradition is very real.

At 9:30 a.m. sharp the chain starts its march along Rogers Street. Participants then walk through the historical Rogers Gate and form a circle on Bass Commons where loved ones await. From here the ceremony turns to songs and speeches and the crowning of Ivy royalty. Finally a brief biography of each of the year’s ivy cutters is read, and they cut the ivy between each participant. As the ivy is cut, each graduate is separate but still a part of the whole.

I had the extreme pleasure and honor of representing Columbia College–Christian County and all non-traditional adult learners as one of two ivy cutters in this year’s May Ivy Chain Ceremony. I was nominated by Kathy Gress, our director of the Christian County campus. Gail Veri of Columbia College–Salt Lake in Salt Lake City, Utah, was the other cutter.

Misty Phillips, special projects coordinator for Adult Higher Education, arranged our travel and lodging. The day before the commencement Misty gave Gail and I a nice tour of the campus, introducing us to many staff and faculty. The tour was a lot of fun on Friday, but I really appreciated it on Saturday when I felt as if I knew many of the key players in the commencement ceremony.

We all look forward to the day we don caps and gowns and walk the stage in the presence of family and friends. But there’s more. Columbia College is a beautiful college with rich history and wonderful traditions. We may not be traditional students, we don’t live on campus and we don’t have time to join clubs or participate in sports. We’re busy with diapers and ballgames and are burning the candle at both ends just to get our degrees. Still, I implore you speak with your director and ask questions. There are scholarships and societies just for people like us. There are opportunities, like the one I was honored to enjoy, if you know where to look.

Columbia College is our college too. The main campus is our campus. When you walk the campus for the first time, and maybe the last, it all comes together. As much as the traditional students, we are Columbia College.

The graduation ceremony was fantastic as well. It was thrilling to walk across the stage in front of my family and friends. It was satisfying and liberating to finally reach my goal. When I get older and am reminded of my big day at Columbia College, my mind will return to Bass Commons and that 110-year-old ceremony that both validated my belonging and signified my separation from the school that has been my school for many years.

Thank you Columbia College.

Danny Small

Columbia College Class of 2010


Anonymous said...

Danny, I enjoyed your description of the events which took place on your graduation day. You've written an excellent article!

You have worked hard to achieve your goal of becoming not just a graduate, but a graduate with a 4.0 GPA!! What's next in your future?


Jim P.