Rain Breaks in Time for BVU Lakeside Commencement

Resilience continues to define Buena Vista University's Class of 2021, as 366 undergraduate diplomas were awarded on a chilly May day.

Some 366 Buena Vista University students became graduates on Saturday as BVU hosted its 130th Commencement on Peterson Field within J. Leslie Rollins Stadium on campus.

“You did it!” exclaimed President Brian Lenzmeier, minutes after members of the Class of 2021 took their seats on the field. “And you did it under extraordinary circumstances. What you have accomplished in graduating in the midst of a pandemic is nothing short of remarkable.”

COVID-19 mitigation efforts prompted moving the ceremony to the field, an outdoor venue that would better protect students, faculty, and hundreds of family members in attendance.

“The faculty and students have impacted me so much... It has been a blessing to be at BVU.”

Troy Finnegan

Mother Nature didn’t fully cooperate as temperatures in the 40s were driven lower by a steady east wind. As raw as the conditions were, rain was not a factor during the proceedings.

“I know it’s cold,” Lenzmeier added. “I know it was raining a lot, but someone was looking over us when the clouds parted right when graduation was about to begin.”

“I’m grateful we got to hold our ceremony today in person,” said Omar Alcorta, a digital media major from Lamoni. “I’m grateful for my time at Buena Vista.”

“This is overwhelmingly exciting,” said Bibiana Elena Lemus, a psychology major from Council Bluffs, and the first in her family to earn a college diploma. “Driving here today, my mom started crying. My parents, Alicia and Ernesto Lemus worked so hard to help me achieve this dream.”

Adrienne B. Haynes, who graduated from BVU in 2010, presented the keynote address, and referenced taking a BVU statistics class more than once. She didn’t succeed in her first go at the course, so she “tried, tried, and tried again,” illustrating the kind of character and resilience also seen in throughout the Class of 2021.

Commencement Ceremony
Adrienne Haynes presented the Commencement address to graduates and guests.

“You’ve studied, you’ve been consistent, hopefully you’ve had a little fun and you’ve shown yourselves and the world that you have the stick-to-itiveness to do so in the midst of a pandemic. Those are the skills that will put you ahead as you advance,” said Haynes, a successful attorney, entrepreneur, and civic leader in Kansas City.

The ceremony was the first of three on campus during a weekend in which the accomplishments of nearly 1,100 BVU students will be celebrated. More than 400 Beavers from the Class of 2020, and 309 students who earned a BVU master’s degree in 2020 and 2021 will be feted in separate ceremonies on Sunday, Mother’s Day.

Faith Betts, the mother of a three-year-old, picked up her diploma on Saturday, praising her BVU roommate as well her husband as she reached this milestone.

“Getting a Bachelor of Arts is such a huge adult achievement, let alone two,” said Betts, who earned degrees in graphic design and arts management. “I have so much pride today.”

Betts stood with her BVU roommate, classmate Reed Studer, as her husband, John Betts, and son Theo watched the proceedings. She has a job in publishing, and, with diploma in-hand, she and John now prepare to close on their first home purchase next week.

Guy Tannenbaum
Guy Tannenbaum, with diploma in hand.

One of the farthest from home on the windswept day in Storm Lake was Guy Tannenbaum, a digital media major from Las Vegas. Tannenbaum was joined by his parents, Nathan and Linda Tannenbaum, who left 98-degree temperatures in Vegas for the flight to Iowa.

Guy Tannenbaum extended his stay on campus by one day as he planned to broadcast BVU baseball games versus Central College on Sunday. Tannenbaum, a student leader in the BVU digital media program, was also a three-year member of the baseball team.

“I was planning to call almost every game last year before season was canceled due to COVID-19,” said Tannenbaum, who finished his academic career at home. “It was killing me to not be on campus this spring as the season began. To have one more chance to call BVU games over Commencement weekend, it means the world to me.”

Tannenbaum’s father, meantime, offered expertise—and gratitude—as everyone stayed dry during BVU’s first outdoor Commencement in several decades.

“I kept my eye on the Radar and noticed we had a break in precipitation,” said the elder Tannenbaum, longtime weather broadcaster for 8 News Now in Las Vegas. “Another line of storms was approaching, but not until after the ceremony. The rain took a break to honor the Beavers.”

Sidne Finnegan honored her son, BVU graduate Troy Finnegan, by digging out a photo she snapped four years ago when Troy, then a BVU freshman, passed through the iconic Victory Arch during his first day on campus. He didn’t walk through the Arch again, per tradition, until graduation day on Saturday.

“Mom showed me the photo from my freshman year at the Arch, and I just thought about how fast the time has flown by,” said Finnegan, Senior of the Year among marketing majors. “The faculty and students have impacted me so much. My soccer teammates and friends helped me push through to get to this day. It has been a blessing to be at BVU.”