“My grandma and I bonded over shoes,” said Janelle Forney ’13. “As if the fascination were genetic, we simply connected over the accessory. I asked my grandma what kind of shoes I should wear with my graduation dress. I’m wearing these red heels for her.”
Every year, Azusa Pacific University holds six commencement ceremonies: winter, spring, and summer – undergraduate, and graduate and adult. A mass of students, all donning the same black cap and gown, walk single-file through a rehearsed ritual. Despite the occasion’s uniformity, graduation represents a deeply personal accomplishment for each individual crossing that stage.
For some, graduation exemplifies this unique journey and showcases the graduate’s individuality. Forney became the first grandchild in her family to graduate college. Her shoe selection honors the connection she shared with her grandmother, who passed away just weeks ahead of commencement. As Forney crossed the stage into the next chapter of life, the red high heels signified her exciting future, while remembering her cherished past.
For the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) graduates, shoes also represent a special bond. All 15 wore black Converse high tops for commencement. William Catling, MFA, chair and professor, of the Department of Art and Design, began the tradition of collectively honoring the MFA graduates with shoes five years ago.
“As a symbolic reminder of our investment and prayers for a successful journey, we provide our MFA graduates a pair of Converse shoes, signed by each MFA faculty member, to take with them as they leave APU and enter the professional art field,” said Catling.
For others, shoe choice showcases students’ unique personalities and styles. Communication studies major and former APU basketball player, Marshall Johnson ’13, sported a pair of 2009 Winter Edition Calvin Klein dress shoes solely for his love of fashion. When asked how many pairs of shoes he owned, Johnson estimated “about 75–100 pairs in a mixture of styles.”
Political science major, Chris Alleway ’13, changed his shoes at the last minute. Ready to cross the stage in a pair of favorite leather boots, Alleway switched to Sperry boating shoes when rain arrived.
A pair of shoes may represent something significant to APU’s graduates, but what really sets these students apart? A God-First education. Whether their college degree takes them to corporate America, the medical field, or the mission field, APU’s graduates set forth to make a difference, carving out a Kingdom-minded path.
Read the San Gabriel Valley Tribune article and view their photo gallery of summer 2013 commencement.