SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER
This year’s Recognition Day is going to look a little different from the traditional graduation ceremony.
Sony Ton-Aime, the Michael I. Rudell Director of Literary Arts, said that “it means everything” to be back on the grounds celebrating the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle Class of 2021, as well as being able to honor the Class of 2020.
Ton-Aime, Stephine Hunt, the manager of the CLSC Octagon, and the committee from the Alumni Association of the CLSC have been hard at work “trying to pull as many of the important traditions and pieces” into the event, Hunt said.
At 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4 in the Amphitheater, the CLSC Class of 2021 will be recognized in conjunction with the morning lecture where they will all sit in the front rows. After the lecture concludes, they will parade down the Brick Walk for the traditional Golden Gate ceremony in the Hall of Philosophy and class photo on the steps of the Hall of Christ.
The CLSC Class of 2021 consists of 49 members, including the second-youngest boy to ever graduate from the CLSC, Christian Ritacco. The class will unveil their banner alongside the very first CLSC banner this morning.
According to Hunt, creating this year’s Recognition Day has been a “really interesting experience” because they have created a hybrid component, as opposed to last year, when the ceremony was fully online.
This year, there will also be a Virtual Recognition Day ceremony at 3:30 p.m. EDT today on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch for everyone who was unable to be on the grounds, to ensure that they are able to participate in the festivities.
Hunt herself is a member of the CLSC Class of 2020 and she was excited about the “innovative ways” the Institution has found to celebrate CLSC graduates. She hopes to keep a virtual aspect of the ceremony in future years for accessibility; now if someone is unable to travel to the Institution to participate in person, they will always be able to be included.
The co-presidents for the CLSC Class of 2021, Jennifer Mittereder and Missy Sirianno, are excited to be able to be on the grounds for the ceremony. Mittereder was initially supposed to be a part of the Class of 2020, but dropped out because she “wanted to have the full experience.”
In the past, Mittereder said she was constantly being bothered by friends and family who are CLSC members asking, “Why haven’t you done it yet?” She said it was because she was waiting on some friends and her husband so that they could all join together. Eventually, she decided to stop waiting on them and joined by herself.
She went and picked up a CLSC charm as a gift to herself for finally graduating.
According to the co-presidents, the final vote on the class flower, motto, symbol and honoree all happened via Zoom, so they are excited to finally be together as a group. They decided on the beebalm for their flower, because it is representative of empathy and tied into this week’s theme of “Building a Culture of Empathy.”
The class was coming together virtually and making all of the decisions about what they wanted their symbols to be at the height of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. They were deciding between making their story a pandemic story, or if they were more interested in the “social justice and change” going on, Sirianno said.
Eventually, after they “chew(ed) on it” for a while, the class decided that they would rather focus on the social justice aspect. This prompted them to select John Lewis as their honoree. Lewis was an American statesman and civil rights activist who served in the United States House of Representatives for 33 years. He also helped organize the 1963 March on Washington and led the first three marches from Selma to Montgomery across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
It is from Lewis that the class gets their motto: “Creating good trouble together.” To Mittereder, “creating good trouble” is about “bringing to light issues that matter, and making sure they are listened to, and that people don’t sweep them under the rug.”
The class wanted to carry the themes of empathy and social justice all the way through, so they selected a circle of grasped hands in a variety of skin tones representing people of different ethnicities as their symbol.
All of these ideas and symbols are featured on the class banner which, according to Hunt, is a tradition that goes back to the first class of the CLSC in 1882, whose banner has since been affectionately dubbed “Old Blue.”
For Sirianno, the banners were what convinced her to join the CLSC in the first place. When she visited on a rainy day, before she began coming to the grounds regularly, She was the only one who showed up for a tour of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall, where some banners are displayed. “I love the banners,” she gushed.
Both presidents are proud of the design that they came up with. Neither woman had any experience with textile crafting, but they found a company in Buffalo, New York called Oxford Pennant Company who were able to help bring the design to life.
According to Sirianno, the people from the Oxford Pennant Company were excited to be a part of the creation of the banner. They took lots of pictures and want to feature it on their website.
“We’re really excited,” Sirianno said. “We hope people love it.”