At the culmination of four years of hard work, patience, struggle and holistic education growth and development, Wabash seniors get the much-cherished honor of walking across the stage, shaking hands with the president of the College and receiving their diploma. For seniors, Commencement marks the end of an era, cementing their status as alumni of the College and the beginning of their next steps in their educational, professional or scholarly careers.
Traditionally, Commencement has been held on the Mall. Surrounded by the very buildings that served as the structure and support for four years of a liberal arts education, countless generations of Wabash men have sat on the Mall, with family and friends seated behind them and graduated at Commencement. But this year, the College will once again break with that tradition, holding Commencement in Little Giant Stadium.
This isn’t the first time Commencement has been held in Little Giant Stadium. In large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, President Scott Feller made the decision to move Commencement to the newly created Little Giant Stadium in 2021. With the ability to space out, provide support and accessibility to the elderly, wheelchair bound and injured, this decision panned out for the College.
But in 2022, as COVID-19 receded, Wabash returned to the storied tradition of having Commencement on the Mall. However, this past Commencement was not without disruption either, as torrential rain forced the graduating seniors, attendees, faculty, staff and broadcast crew to hurriedly pack up all their belongings and sprint to the cover of Chadwick Court, where Commencement would resume without further problems.
This year, as in 2021, President Feller has once again decided to move Commencement back to Little Giant Stadium after discussion with students, faculty and staff. Behind Feller’s decision to relocate Commencement to the stadium are a variety of technological, logistical, economic and practical features that collectively convinced him of his course of action.
First, due to the sheer size of Little Giant Stadium, which can comfortably seat significantly more people than the Mall, while simultaneously affording them better visibility of Commencement, there will not be any limitations on tickets for those who desire to attend. As a result, in addition to the family, friends and loved ones of the graduating class, Wabash students, their families and members of the Wabash and Crawfordsville Communities will all be able to easily attend Commencement without the worry of whether there will be a spot available for them.
“In the last four years, we were on the Mall, live streamed a virtual Commencement, had the ceremony in the stadium and finally returned to the mall,” said the President’s Chief of Staff Jim Amidon. “All of them had their pros and cons. But during COVID, the cost of renting bleachers for the ceremony rose by over 300%. It became difficult to justify a nearly six-figure expense with the new stadium offering so many amenities, including equitable, accessible seating, restrooms, centralized audio and video systems and so much parking adjacent to the stadium.”
Importantly, Little Giant Stadium also affords the college additional logistical advantages that will better serve the graduates and the attendees versus holding Commencement on the Mall. Prominently, there is significantly more parking for persons with disabilities in the Knowling Fieldhouse lot and all of Mud Hollow is available for other guests.
“I think the upside is having lots of available, accessible seating with good sightlines, built-in audio capabilities and accessible bathroom facilities for parents and guests,” said Associate Professor of Theatre Jim Cherry, the Faculty Marshal of Commencement. “I personally like the mall as a site for aesthetic reasons, but there are a lot of good, practical reasons for having it in the stadium.”
An additional benefit is that the traditional Commencement lunch buffet is held in Knowling Fieldhouse, which is immediately adjacent to the stadium.
“From my point of view, we seniors care about graduating—the venue isn’t a huge concern for us,” said Student Body President Bryce McCullough ’23. “We’ll still be walking across that stage and then under the arch for the first time. From what the administration told me, the new stadium makes a lot of sense. It allows us to have more family members in the audience, provides better accessibility for our grandparents and others and gives us optimal audio quality. You bet that I’ll still be taking pictures in front of our historic Chapel afterwards.”
The 185th Commencement Ceremony of Wabash College will begin at 2:30pm on Saturday, May 13 on the field of Little Giant Stadium, honoring the Wabash Class of 2023.