BETHANY, W.Va. — Bethany College officially welcomed the Class of 2026 Thursday at the annual matriculation ceremony. Matriculation is a Bethany tradition that signifies a formal welcome for the freshman class. It also officially opens the academic year.

Fresh, new, and excited Bethanians lined up in front of Ogden Dining Hall awaiting their historic processional through the Oglebay Gates and up to Pennington Quadrangle. The Class of 2026 will not pass back through the Oglebay Gates again until graduation.

The ceremony started with a warm welcome from Reverend Mark William Mayer, who reflected on his time at Bethany.

“When Dean Stebbins invited me here several weeks ago to offer today’s invocation and benediction, I was filled with memories and emotion. And it’s sometimes hard for me to fathom that 42 years ago, I, too, was seated where you are and signed the book as a member of the incoming class of 1984,” said Mayer, pastor of Weirton First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Bethany President Dr. Jamie Caridi then welcomed students by asking them to stand up if they came to Bethany from a home over 50 miles away—many stood. But the number standing dropped as he gradually raised the distance to 1,000 miles away. Caridi then asked everyone to give a round of applause for the international students who were left standing. He then followed that by asking a group of students to stand once more.

“This is a special place, and this is a special class. And it’s especially special because for 182 years, we have had the privilege often to be the college experience for those who are the first ever in their family to attend college,” Caridi stated. “So, if you are the first ever in your family to attend college, please stand for a resounding applause.”

He asked students to reflect upon how they got where they are today—reminding them of who helped their climb. Caridi told the students to embrace the opportunity that has been put before them, saying to not take it for granted even when it does not go as planned.

“God writes straight with crooked lines. I’m sure you have a perspective on how this journey’s going to go. I assure you, it’s not going to go that way,” Caridi said. “You’re going to encounter some unique circumstances, but remember, it’s all part of your story. It’s all part of His plan for you.”

Caridi rounded his letter by mentioning to students the importance of support.

“You can’t do this alone. We come to work every day to support you. Lean on us. We have committed our lives to your journey. We want to celebrate you in four years, let us be a part of your journey.”

Matriculation concluded with the time-honored ritual of each new student signing the Bethany College Book of Matriculation– a tradition that dates to the late 1800s.


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.