Beloit College will remain 'best years' of grad's life

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Shelly Birkelo
Monday, May 13, 2013

— Liz Chiquoine had mixed feelings before Sunday's graduation ceremony at Beloit College.

"I'm terrified. It's such a mixed bag of emotions. I'm feeling a lot of sadness, but I'm overall happy," said the 22-year-old Reedsburg native, who was receiving a bachelor's degree in public health.

Chiquoine said she has formed lasting friendships in Beloit with professors and students that she can't imagine finding elsewhere.

"Beloit will remain some of the best years of my life for my entire life," she said.

Still, Chiquoine said she hoped to keep graduation a happy milestone in her life so she could relish the moments.

Graduates bundled in layers under their gowns to stay warm as they formed a block-long line on College Street. Many wore creative mortarboards, including Chiquoine, who decorated hers with colored packaged condoms.

She did so to send a preventive health message.

"The Beloit Health Initiative was a big part of my college, so I thought it was an appropriate symbol regardless of (whether) my grandmother will think so," she said.

Chiquoine did an internship in Bayfield, studied abroad in Africa and is interested in addressing the challenges of getting physicians to work in rural areas. She worked with Beloit Public Health Initiative and received the Claudette Cummings Award for Community Health and the Martha Peterson Prize.

"I'm taking my medical school entrance exam this summer and hoping to apply to medical school to be a doctor,'' she said.

Chiquoine was among 305 graduates in the 2013 Beloit College graduating class who received their diplomas in front of about 1,500 people in cool, windy but sunny conditions. The 11 a.m. outdoor ceremony was on the Middle College lawn.

College President Scott Bierman was the first to address the graduates and their friends and family.

"Greetings and welcome to the 163rd commencement at Beloit College. This is the finest baccalaureate ever!" he shouted to the cheering audience.

"This is a celebration of 305 terrific, talented and well-educated students who now can join the proud ranks of the Beloit College alumni,'' Bierman said.

First-term U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a veteran of Wisconsin politics and no stranger to Beloit College, delivered the commencement address.

Baldwin told the graduates when she was elected to the U.S. Senate, she felt the same pride, elation, relief and anxiety they most likely were experiencing Sunday.

"I didn't run to have a title. I ran for a chance to do the job, while you came here for a chance to change the world. Today is a celebration of that. It isn't the end, but the beginning of something fun, exciting, and different—even though it may be scary," she said.

Baldwin also suggested that graduates might face the same question she did as a freshman senator: "How do I start?"

"You'll have to work hard to make the smallest of progress, but nobody solves problems all at once or alone. So don't be afraid to take on insoluble problems. It may be slow and not always in the right direction, but you'll make progress and maybe inspire someone along the way.''

Chiquoine's separation anxiety from Beloit College will be short-lived because she is returning in the fall for an honors term to work on a project about how public policy has affected infant mortality in the Beloit area.

"I'm still going to miss my class. But this way I can ease out,'' she said of her college withdrawal pains.

Beloit College commencement

Number of graduates: 305

Highest scholastic standing among the bachelor or arts and bachelor of science degree recipients: Sarah E. Morgan, Madison, and Jianing Xu, Shanghai, China, respectively.

Commencement address speaker: U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

Songs sung: Selections by Chamber Singers, members of the Beloit College Chamber Singers, and "Domine Salvam Fac," by Charles Gounod (1818-1893) and arranged by Max Yount, which has been sung as a part of the college's commencement exercises for more than 100 years. It was included in the first Beloit College Song Book, published in 1897.

Special awards: Jason Busack, Cottage Grove, the Warren Miller Blue Skies Award, named for a Beloit alumnus who is famous for his many New Yorker magazine cartoons, and Elizabeth Chiquoine, Reedsburg, the Martha Peterson Prize, named after Beloit College's seventh president and awarded to a student who best exemplifies the college's liberal arts traditions as a student and active contributor to the campus community.

Last updated: 10:36 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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