Understanding the historic nature of the moment – globally, at Culver, and personally – echoed through the Baccalaureate speeches of Amina Shafeek-Horton and Joe Chandler during the virtual graduation ceremony first shown on Sunday morning.
The video was originally released at 10 a.m., which would have been the traditional time for the Final Formation at Culver Academies. It contained condensed versions of the Baccalaureate, Commencement Convocation, and Commencement ceremonies. Head of Schools Dr. Doug Bird also announced that a special ceremony for the class of 2020 will be conducted on Sunday, May 30, 2021, so members of the class may walk through the Iron Gate and the Graduation Arch.
Shafeek-Horton (Huntersville, North Carolina) said members of the class have been writing their history “from the moment we matriculated through Logansport Gate. A time when our kilts still brushed our knees and cadets’ pants still grazed freshly shined shoes.”
From winning championship trophies to celebrating birthdays to simply saying hello to the freshmen as they pass on campus, they have been recording history, Shafeek Horton said. “From the mundane to the monumental, these are our stories, our history.”
As she recounted some of her favorite memories and places on campus, she recited the quote by Emmy- and Tony Award-winning actor Hal Holbrook ’42: “There are places on this campus where I have lived…and died … and out of that I got me.”
She added that while everyone has “widely varying experiences at Culver, we are connected through our shared memories. Through our shared memories we continue the legacy of Culver.” Those memories include “us linking arms on Beason to sing the Culver Song together one last time before our departure.”
“COVID-19 dramatically shifted the timeline we envisioned,” Shafeek-Horton said. “In a matter of minutes, our countdown to graduation went from 51 days on campus to zero. But having our Culver experience cut short has made us more appreciative as we realize life outside Culver when we expected to still be there is less than ideal.”
The class of 2020’s future will now include “a graduation unlike any other throughout Culver’s history,” she said. And while she thinks about the future, “we now know how malleable the future is. The only thing we can control is what we do in the present; how we affect the history that will be written.”
And, as they turn their class rings so the Culver C faces outward, “we bring Culver into the world to show the history we have written and will continue to write.”
For Joe Chandler (Indianapolis, Indiana), “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
From being fourth classmen trying to get through orientation week and matriculation to being the first graduating class for a new head of schools to enduring the steam pipe project that divided up the campus to the dining staff conversion, the class of 2020 has a wide collective history to write.
But, like Shafeek-Horton, Chandler – who served as regimental commander this spring – has his personal memories as well. The craziness of Spirit Games; the chaos of “Bring Home the Bacon;” the officers and their mothers negotiating the interwoven paths of the Officers’ Figure; and the Band enduring the Labor Day heat at the Blueberry Parade are all part of that.
A slideshow his Culver memories, as most presentations are, would be “mind-numbing,” Chandler said. But he does remember an all-school presentation by the National Geographic photographer DeWitt Jones. One photo, in particular, has stayed with him. A puffball, photographed from the bottom up so the sun could illuminate the seeds suspended by a thin stalk, creating a halo of light. Jones originally wanted to shoot a field filled with flowers, but he left to finish another assignment. When he returned, the flowers had tansformed in to the puffballs.
“Rather than giving up, Jones took advantage of the opportunity and instead worked with the puffballs, resulting in the beautiful image I just described,” Chandler said. “Jones said memorably that day: in photography – and in life – there is not just one right answer.”
Every person at Culver has “their own personal slideshow. Each image has a meaning, a story. And the class of 2020 has an unusual ending to “our slideshow,” Chandler added. Memories of the senior dinner, convocation, Baccalaureate and Commencement have been replaced with “long Tuesdays and Thursdays filled with Zoom classes, the little boxes of our friends relegated to their own place on our computer screens.”
“But while the ending is unusual, it is not wrong,” he said. As the photographer Jones pointed out, “there are multiple right answers. The ending does not devalue the experience, nor does it invalidate the previous three and a half years of hard work and effort our class put into the Culver community.”
The difference does not come from the experiences this class has from other Culver classes, “the difference is the bond we have built. We all chose to stay on campus the extra day to sing on the Beason patio and huddle in blankets on the dock to watch the sunrise and packed into Café Max to spend the maximum time possible together.”
“The past is the past – we cannot change what happened to our last two months of Culver,” Chandler said. “Look forward to the challenges and adventures that start today for us all. Look ahead to the reunions and celebrations we will hold together. I am excited for the years ahead. Don’t blink, it might fly by too quickly.”