After students receive their diploma and step through the Anderson University archway on graduation day, their next steps may lead them to different cities and states and countries.
But a band of silver or gold can evoke memories of their days here no matter their spot on the globe.
On Tuesday night, February 25, upperclassmen students strolled across the Henderson Auditorium stage in front of their family and friends to receive their class rings from President Evans P. Whitaker at the 2020 Ring Ceremony. At Anderson University, class rings are not just a special piece of jewelry but a symbol of all that the University stands for and a reminder of each student’s journey.
Jamal Session, a junior kinesiology major who received his class ring at the Ceremony, said it marked “the beginning of the end” as upperclassmen reflected on how their time at Anderson University shaped them and begin considering what it means to carry their alma mater with them as graduation nears.
“We all may move on from Anderson and branch out, but it’s also a symbol of this is where I came from, this is where I did a lot of growing and really finding where I am in life,” Session said. “I’ll always consider Anderson as home, so there will always be a little piece of it with me.”
Session said he came to Anderson University because he wanted a place where he could grow not only in his knowledge but also in his faith. And that’s what he found. He recalls meeting at the gazebo on campus to play worship music with newfound friends during his freshman year. Their praise echoed across campus.
Reeves Willis, a junior finance major who received his ring on Tuesday night, said it has also been valuable to have professors of faith who have personally invested in him and given him insight into what living as a Christian in the business world will look like.
Anderson is built and sustained by faith. And this Christ-centered environment leads to lasting friendships. Building community is intentionally sought at AU, and nearly every student who slides a ring on their finger would say it’s true.
Willis found deep, Christian friendships at Anderson, many of which he built in community groups at Baptist Collegiate Ministries.
“A lot of the friendship and community I have right now would have never been established without Anderson,” Willis said. “That ring is just a little piece of Anderson to remind me of my accomplishment and those friends I established here.”
Kennedy Burton, a special education major and student-athlete on the women’s softball team who received her ring also, said she found this type of community in the classroom and on the softball diamond. And that’s what her class ring will represent.
“It symbolizes unconditional love and gratitude for my professors, my teammates and coaches, my peers and AU,” Burton said. “This journey has allowed me to ‘see with my heart,’ for AU is about more than just learning — it is about people, faith and family. Iam now a builder of knowledge, community and values.”
When students receive their rings, they accept a token of Anderson University tradition. It’s a mark that links alumni together generation after generation.
For many students, like Willis, ties to Anderson run deep. Both of his parents and his two siblings are Anderson graduates. When he graduates in 2021, he will join the tradition. And just like his parents and siblings, he will have a class ring to show for his part in AU history.
“It is a cool way to carry on the Anderson legacy with you and have it everywhere you go. It shows people the importance that Anderson has played not only in my life but also my whole family’s lives,” Willis said. “Tradition, I guess, would be the way to sum it up.”
And these are the stories that each ring holds. Each small image emblazoned on the traditional ring holds meaning: the cross represents Anderson as an intentionally Christ-centered institution, the oak leaf stands for the knowledge gained in its halls, the acorn signifies students’ future possibilities, the white swings symbolize the special relationships formed and the sketch of Merritt honors the heart and history of campus.
As students leave Anderson University, they leave with this story fastened on their hand and an enduring sense of Trojan pride.
“I’ll always stay true to AU, and that ring will exemplify that,” Session said.
“Black and gold will always run through me because I will forever be a Trojan at heart,” Burton said.
They will never have to look further than their hand to remember their alma mater and what Anderson means to them.