St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf celebrates Class of 2019 at commencement

On Sunday, May 26, St. Olaf College graduates walked across a stage set on the picturesque lawn in front of Mellby Hall to receive their diplomas.

President David R. Anderson ’74 noted that the 711 students in the Class of 2019 hailed from 34 states and 43 countries. Together, they earned a cumulative GPA of 3.41, with 13 members of the class graduating with three majors and 218 graduating with two majors — the most popular (in order) being biology, economics, mathematics, psychology, and music. An impressive 71 percent of the class also participated in at least one off-campus study program during their college career.

All of these accomplishments, Anderson said, are just the beginning.

“Today isn’t about what you have done — it’s about what you are going to do,” he told graduating students. “The point isn’t what you choose to do starting tomorrow, but rather that whatever path you take has purpose and that what you choose to do lifts up those around you, creates opportunity, inspires others, enhances well-being, and promotes justice and equity for everyone.”

Members of the Class of 2019 listen to senior commencement speaker Makenna Ash.

The Class of 2019 senior commencement address was delivered by Makenna Ash, a Spanish major from Ellison Bay, Wisconsin.

“My greatest wish for all of us as we move on from this place is that we live fully and earnestly,” said Ash, who is working as a critical care clinical research intern at Regions Hospital in St. Paul after graduation before beginning medical school.

Wendy Helgemo ’91 — a St. Olaf alumna who has dedicated her career to serving American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians in the public, nonprofit, and tribal sectors — delivered the charge to the graduating class. Helgemo has more than 20 years of experience in Indigenous law and policy, and currently is the director of the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy at the George Washington University. She encouraged graduates to remember that wherever they go, they will be on Indigenous land.

“St. Olaf is a place that will be forever formative for you,” Helgemo, an enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, told graduates. “My charge to the Class of 2019 is not only to acknowledge whose land this once was, but know and understand that Indigenous people are still here and justice still needs to be served. Listen to Indigenous voices, stand with Indigenous people, add your voice; when the world is better for Native Americans, it is better for everyone.”

After members of the Class of 2019 received their diplomas, they closed the commencement ceremony by singing Fram! Fram! St. Olaf and Um! Yah! Yah! Then, of course, they threw their mortarboards.

Congratulations to the Class of 2019!