WMU News

WMU commencement ceremony moved to... Kansas?

June 24, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- During its 100-year history, Western Michigan University's commencement ceremonies have been held in a variety of locations, including the school's auditorium, field house and football stadium, but never until this year has a WMU ceremony been held in Kansas.

Clifford Ferree of Mattawan, Mich., graduated from WMU in April with a bachelor's degree in chemistry, but he was unable to attend commencement ceremonies in Kalamazoo, because just days prior to the ceremonies, Ferree and his Army Reserve unit were called to active duty and shipped out to Fort Riley, Kan.

In his other life, Ferree's sergeant, Paul MacNellis, is a 35-year employee of WMU and director of landscape services. MacNellis and other members of Company A with WMU connections made clandestine plans for a commencement ceremony on the parade grounds at
Fort Riley.

With troops assembled, Sgt. 1st Class MacNellis placed a mortarboard on Spc. Ferree's head and read a congratulatory letter from WMU's then-Interim President Daniel Litynski, who is also a retired U.S. Army brigadier general.

"By the power vested in me by no one at all," said MacNellis, "I bestow upon you the degree of bachelor of science, with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto."

MacNellis then asked the company if "that sounded official enough." All responded with "Hooah" and cheered as Ferree crossed the tassel on his cap from right to left.

On June 14, the company, which includes four current WMU students, three alumni and three University employees, was redeployed to the Persian Gulf to participate in efforts to rebuild post-war Iraq.

Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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