Largest graduating class prepares for final walk

Dylan Morrill

Equinox Staff


On Saturday, May 5, about 1,170 students—the biggest graduation class in KSC history—will be eligible to participate in the commencement ceremony taking place on the Fiske Quad.

Interestingly some students, for various reasons, will choose not to participate.

Barbara Preston, the commencement coordinator and assistant to the vice president of Student Affairs, believes that the actual number of graduates who walk across the stage on Saturday will be less than the 1,170 that are eligible to walk.

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One KSC senior, who chose not to be identified in this article, cited anxiety as the reason that she will not be walking across the stage with the other graduates.

“I have anxiety. I would love to do it, I just know me, personally, can’t” the student said.

Despite the reluctance of some graduating seniors to participate in the ceremony, the graduation ceremony is expected to be one of the biggest in the history of KSC.  Preston says she is expecting roughly 12,000 people—ranging from family, to friends, to observers—to attend the ceremony. The logistics for such an event are incredible.

During the massive ceremony, two special awards will be given out.

Mary Ann Kristiansen will receive the Granite State Award which is “presented annually by Keene State College and the University System of New Hampshire to honor outstanding achievements by community members,” according to the KSC website.

Kristiansen opened Hannah Grimes Marketplace in 1997 on Roxbury Street in Keene.

Hannah Grimes Marketplace invests in local entrepreneurs and gives them the skills to be successful with the hope of creating a better overall community.

Janet Cohen will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

At every commencement ceremony since 1967—with the exception of 1985—at least one honorary degree has been given out. There have been 67 total. Some past recipients include Stephen Taylor, the founding executive director of the New Hampshire Humanities Council, and Carol Geary Schneider, the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Cohen was and continues to be a significant player in making the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies a well respected and important institution. Cohen “has promoted awareness of the Holocaust and related issues of genocide, tolerance, and diversity through education, research, and advocacy,” according to the honorary degree webpage.

Henry Knight, the director of the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, believes Cohen’s Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters is well deserved. “Two words come to mind to characterize Jan Cohen, graciously committed… and that comes from thinking about lots of ways that people can be committed to their causes and concerns and Jan’s way is full of compassion.”

Before the two awards are given out, before the graduation ceremony, there is another graduation related event which may see a rise in participation due to the class of 2012 being the biggest class ever. This event is the Senior Family Dinner, which is just in its second year.

The Senior Family Dinner, which will happen on the day before graduation, will consist of a dinner for seniors and their family at the Zorn Dining Commons followed by a walk down Appian Way to the Alumni Center for dessert. The event, organized by Sara Telfer, assistant director of Alumni and Parent Relations, in conjunction with the class of 2012, is meant to be a symbolic end to the year that allows the seniors to experience the transition from student to alumnus. “It’s really just meant to be a celebration moment; a recognition that you are becoming an alum,” Telfer said.

Last year—the first for the Senior Family Dinner—around 230 people, students and family, participated in the event which costs $13 or, for the seniors, one meal swipe.

This year, despite the size of the class of 2012, Telfer expects a similar turnout. Some students and their family either do not want to participate in the program—which is still young—or would rather get dinner at a restaurant downtown, said Telfer.

Telfer touts the great deal and unique symbolism of the Senior Family Dinner as a reason to forgo other graduation eve options and participate in the Senior Family Dinner.

To register for the Senior Family Dinner, seniors and their family should go to the Keene State College Alumni webpage and click on the “Senior Dinner & Desert” link.


Dylan Morrill can be contacted at

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