BETHANY, W.Va.– Bethany College celebrated the Class of 2023 in a moving Commencement ceremony honoring the achievements of its 102 undergraduate and nine master students on Saturday, May 5. The ceremony highlighted the accomplishments of the graduates and the inspiring journey that each of them had taken throughout their college experience.  

Bethany President Dr. Jamie Caridi opened the ceremony by addressing the graduates, “You showed us how to lead and, quite frankly, how to live, and now it’s our turn to thank you.” He then praised the faculty for their hard work in creating an active learning environment, urging graduates to stand and thank their professors for the magic they brought to the classroom. Caridi also recognized the role that families played in supporting the graduates during their time at Bethany, asking the Class of 2023 to applaud their loved ones for their unwavering support. 

The president noted the unique challenges that the Class of 2023 faced during their time at Bethany College, including the loss of two students, Jordan Weaver and Mitchell Sotera, who were juniors at Bethany College when they died tragically two years ago in a house fire. The college community paid tribute to the couple, who were engaged to be married, and described them as inseparable and kind-hearted individuals. Caridi encouraged the graduates to remember Jordan and Mitchell and to carry their memory with them as the graduates embark on the next phase of their journey. 

“I am grateful to be part of a community that cares so deeply. I know Jordan and Mitchell’s absence is felt by all of us today, but together, we will continue to carry them in our hearts as we present their families with posthumous degrees,” said Caridi.  

Caridi also emphasized that the Bethany community remains committed to supporting the families and loved ones of Jordan and Mitchell. 

During the ceremony, Shirley Kemp, Bethany mayor, a prominent community leader, and longtime employee and friend of Bethany College, was awarded an honorary degree in recognition of her many contributions to the community. Kemp is currently the director of advancement services but has been with the college in multiple settings for over five decades. She has also served on various committees and has been instrumental in the development of the College’s strategic plan. 

“Shirley is a “keeper of hearts,” mirroring for us each day how to bring out the best in her advancement colleagues and in everyone who works at Bethany College,” said Caridi.  

During his speech, President Caridi said “Commencement on any college campus is a time to celebrate, but I would argue that at Bethany College, we want to celebrate far more than the conferring of your degree. So, we celebrate your full selves today along with your accomplishments, the knowledge you gained, the growth you experienced, the purpose you found, and the distinctive mark you will leave here and at every point forward.” 

Dr. Caridi then announced the Commencement speaker, Steven Butschi, Google’s director of sales and partnerships for North America. Before handing the mic over, in Bethany fashion, Dr. Caridi first presented him with an honorary degree, saying “Mr. Steven Butschi, you are officially a Bethanian.”

Butschi, who oversees the Education and Insights team within Google’s U.S. Advertising Sales organization, shared his experience in navigating the professional world as a fellow graduate of a liberal arts college. He reflected on his struggles to find a job during the recession of 2008.  

“I felt the weight on my shoulders. I had thoroughly convinced myself that every decision I made would resonate for the rest of my life and make or break my career trajectory,” Butschi continued. “So naturally, I decided to take 16 teenagers around France for six weeks and teach them French. And somehow that progressed to today where I lead a team responsible for driving a few hundred million dollars of revenue at Google across our device and software education business.” 

He urged graduates to continue educating themselves throughout their lives. He encouraged them to identify their strengths and move forward in their careers with the flexibility of “career bouldering” instead of a career ladder. His advice for the graduates was distilled into five points that created the acronym E-I-E-I-O to help the graduates remember his five key takeaways for success. The first letter “E” stands for educate, emphasizing the value of continuous learning. The “I” stands for identify, encouraging graduates to identify their strengths and use them to their advantage. The second “E” stands for empathize, reminding graduates to consider the perspectives of others. The second “I” stands for innovate, highlighting the importance of thinking creatively and adapting to change. Finally, the “O” stands for “own it,” encouraging graduates to take responsibility for their decisions and their career trajectory. 

He also emphasized the importance of using their strengths as a foundation for their careers. “While it’s often easy to focus on the areas you need to develop, don’t forget the areas where you are really good,” Butschi said. “Take time to learn new skills and hobbies.” 

President Caridi inspired graduates to continue to be themselves, think big, and share their joy as proud Bethany alumni. The graduates left the ceremony with a new sense of purpose and determination, excited to begin their next journey with the lessons they learned at Bethany College.  

The Bethany College Class of 2023 has left an indelible mark on the institution, and their accomplishments and contributions will continue to be celebrated and remembered. 

Click here to view photos from Commencement 2023.