When he accepted his diploma, John St. Pierre of Manchester became the first graduate of Magdalen College whose parents also graduated from the Catholic liberal arts school. And the person presenting him with his Bachelor of Arts degree was his grandmother, Anne Hochreiter, who has been a member of the college's board of trustees for almost 24 years.
"It was very moving," Hochreiter, standing outside the college's Our Lady Queen of Apostles chapel, said after the ceremony.
Surveying the tranquil 135-acre Warner campus, Hochreiter, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, resident, pointed out another reason she's proud of her grandson: a wooden footbridge near the school's main entrance. St. Pierre built the bridge as part of his senior thesis, for which he studied bridge building, both metaphysically and physically.
"The idea behind it was just to understand a bridge, between humankind, between people," said St. Pierre, who plans to stay with his job doing construction in New England. "We're all connected, and you don't want to take anyone for granted at all."
Other student-thesis projects included a short film based on the Robert Frost poem "Home Burial," and a 250-page novel adapted from the Epic of Gilgamesh, professor Mark Gillis said.
Eleven Magdalen College graduates were awarded liberal arts degrees yesterday during a baccalaureate mass presided over by Bishop Sebastian Theckethecheril of Vijayapuram, India. During the two-hour service, the bishop urged the students be "sincere of heart and steadfast."
The graduates later took part in the Holy Communion with family and friends.
Magdalen College President Jeff Karls said a month-long trip to Italy with the graduating class during their junior year allowed him to form a special bond with the students. "It solidified our friendships," he said.
The Class of 2007 stood out because the students brought with them a bright spirit that only intensified as their time living on campus together went by. "They came with a great spirit, intellectually and socially," Karls said. "And I think that spirit continued, developed and improved."
The Magdalen College Class of 2007 included Jennifer Lynn Barron, Anthony Michael Cusack, Elizabeth Helene DeHaas, Ryan Patrick Dostie, Elisabeth Kathryn Fleming, Tahsia Anne-Teal Garcia, Allannah Kristin Karas, Michelle Lauren Cecilia Lubatti, Anne Marie Bernadette Rennie, John Matthew St. Pierre and Joshua Nelson Witter.
This article was first published on May 5, 2007 in the The Union Leader, New Hampshire.