GETTYSBURG, Pa. – With both men's and women's lacrosse programs scheduled to compete in the NCAA Division III Championship this weekend, Gettysburg College held a Special Commencement Ceremony for the 16 graduating seniors from both teams inside Kline Theater Thursday morning.
In what has become nearly an annual tradition on the Gettysburg campus, seven women and nine men received their degrees from College President Janet Morgan Riggs '77. The women's program has taken part in 10 Special Commencements over the last 13 years, while the men's program took part in the event for the first time since 2009.
The nine graduates on the men's side were Tim Brady (Charlotte, N.C./Providence), Patrick Decker (Westfield, N.J./Westfield), Geoff Fulgione (North Andover, Mass./Brooks School), Nick Hill (Chatham, N.J./Chatham), Justin McBride (Laurel Hollow, N.Y./Cold Spring Harbor), Cullen Minion (Garden City, N.Y./Garden City), Noah Pompan(Studio City, Calif./Harvard-Westlake School), Sam Runkel (Fairfield, Conn./Avon Old Farms), and Connor Sweeney(Great Falls, Va./Potomac School).
"I thought it was a really special experience," said Minion. "It was a great opportunity to graduate with the men's and women's lacrosse teams."
The seven graduates from the women's program were Ali Gorab (Southport, Conn./Ludlowe), Katie Landry (Hingham, Mass./Hingham), Maggie McClain (Wexford, Pa./Sewickley Academy), Cassie Smith (Phoenix, Md./St. Paul's School for Girls), Elsie Wagner (Berwyn, Pa./Conestoga), Maggie Welsh (Rye, N.Y./Holy Child), and Katie Willis (Baltimore, Md./Notre Dame Prep).
"It was so nice to have a small ceremony," said Gorab. "It was also nice having the men's seniors there with us. A lot of them are really good friends. I'm sad to be closing this chapter, but I'm excited to be starting a new one."
The graduates and their families were greeted by President Riggs, who cited the teams' outstanding accomplishments while proudly displaying her two national championship rings courtesy of the women's team in 2011 and 2017.
"Lacrosse has been a central part of your experience over the last four years, and you have learned an enormous amount on the field from your coaches, and from each other," noted Riggs. "Your teams have had exceptional seasons and I have tremendous respect for the talent and commitment and just plain hard work that has led to the opportunity for post-season play."
Provost Chris Zappe introduced Professor of Physics Sharon Stephenson as the guest speaker. Stephenson related her own experiences with lacrosse at Gettysburg since arriving at the institution 21 years ago. Not familiar with the sport initially given her Southern roots, she heard from others about the successful programs and fierce student-athletes that played lacrosse. Eventually, Stephenson experienced the character and determination of lacrosse student-athletes first-hand in her own classes.
"She was so great," Gorab noted. "She found a way to incorporate our academics and athletics. She found humor in such a sad time, but also such an exciting time. She lightened the mood. She made it really fun to be in there."
Following Stephenson's remarks, President Riggs conferred the degrees on the 16 student-athletes, sending them forward into the world as Gettysburg graduates. The group recessed out of Kline Theater and up to Pennsylvania Hall, travelling back through the doors they walked into four years ago as incoming first-year students.
The ceremony cleared the way for the now-graduates to lead their teams into a full weekend of competition on the Gettysburg campus. On the women's side, Clark Field will host three games as part of the NCAA Division III Regional Championship Saturday and Sunday. The third-ranked Bullets square off with No. 5 University of Mary Washington Saturday at 11:30 a.m. No. 6 Amherst College and No. 15 Wesleyan University compete at 2:30 on Saturday. Saturday's two winning squads will meet in the reginal finale Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The weekend's victor will head to the national semifinals and championship hosted by Roanoke College on May 26-27.
"Now we can really focus and start working on practice," said Gorab. "Our goal is to just really get after it the next couple days and push our focus more on the field. Now we're ready to go."
On the men's side, Gettysburg draws No. 7 Salisbury University in the national semifinals Sunday at 4 p.m. on Shirk Field at Musselman Stadium. The Bullets beat the then top-ranked Sea Gulls 11-10 in double-overtime back on Feb. 24. The program is seeking its fourth appearance in the national title game and first since 2009.
"It's a great experience and it gives us great motivation to keep pushing to the final four as well as for the women as they progress into their games," noted Minion. "I'm thankful to be a part of it and congratulations to the Class of 2018!"