Posted Online: May 20, 2007, 12:00 am

Itís hard to say goodbye for Augie grads

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By Jenny Lee, jlee@qconline.com

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Photo: John Greenwood
The Augustana Choir performed for a full house at The Mark Sunday afternoon for the schools 147th annual commencement ceremony. Of 670 graduates for 2007, 528 marched in the ceremony Sunday.
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Photo: John Greenwood
Shanna Marene Casey, Cum laude, receives congratulations from Augustana College president Steven Bahls during the school's 147th annual commencement ceremony, held Sunday at The Mark.
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Photo: John Greenwood
Amanda J. Essling addressed the audience at The Mark of the Quad Cities Sunday afternoon on behalf of the 2007 graduating class of Augustana College.
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Photo: John Greenwood
Keynote speaker for the 2007 Augustana College commencement ceremony was Peter J. Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in The Memorial Church, Harvard University.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
Augustana College held its 147th annual commencement ceremony Sunday at The Mark of the Quad Cities. An extremely large crowd attended the civic center for the ceremony.

MOLINE -- Sunday was a bittersweet day for some Augustana College students, who strove to balance the happiness of receiving their diplomas with the sadness of leaving close friends.

"I'm excited, but it's kind of sad to say good-bye to everyone," said Gina Sammarco of Elk Grove, Ill., who received her bachelor's degree in psychology. She plans on heading to graduate school, and eventually hopes to work in a school.

She was among about 575 students at Sunday's ceremony at The Mark of the Quad Cities. Proud relatives and friends watched the graduates, clad in black gowns and mortarboards, walk from their seats and to the stage to receive their diplomas.

Fellow graduate Mark Cunningham, of Lombard, Ill., said he'll miss the friends he made as well.

"It feels good to graduate," said Mr. Cunningham, who received a business degree. But "it's sad because life is going to be very different."

College president Steven Bahls praised the 147th graduating class of Augustana College.

"We are very proud of your accomplishments," Mr. Bahls said. "... Use your Augustana education well as you navigate the winding path of your life."

He noted he became the college president four years ago, when most of those graduating were freshmen.

"You're going to finish your four years," Mr. Bahls quipped. "I'm completing my four years and I'm not graduating."

Commencement speaker the Rev. Peter Gomes, Plummer professor of Christian morals at Harvard University and Pusey minister in The Memorial Church, also offered his admiration of the graduates.

"We can count against ordinary experience and expect something exceptional from you," Rev. Gomes said. "It should be that you're looking for a purpose of all your skills and all your imagination."

Student speaker Amanda Essling asked her class to thank their friends, teachers and families for supporting them.

"We have long dreamed of this day," she said. "... Augustana College has taught us that there are no short cuts to where we're going."

She recalled her first day at Augustana in August 2003. She said she felt truly alone. But she made new friends, and "we've come a long way from that rainy orientation."

Area members of Augustana College's Class of 2007 include:

Aledo -- Nicole Bieri, Michael Sloan.

Annawan -- Kristen Griffiths, Kristen Ufheil.

Atkinson -- Danielle VanMeenen.

Bettendorf -- Rachel Annen, Kyle Considine, Megan DeShon, Kade Jensen, Amy Johannesen, Sneha Konda, Meghan McCullough, Cathleen Miller, Nate Swetalla, Drew Wessels.

Cambridge -- Jessica Carlson, Daniel Whitford.

Coal Valley -- Jill Seys, James Shearouse, Kathryn Van Quathem.

Colona -- Erik Norin.

Davenport -- Jesse Anderson, Jennifer Craft, Bradley Fox, Abigail Johnson, Joanna Link, Elizabeth Mbuga, Aaron Miguel, Jennifer Neff, Colin Nolan, Aubrey Peeters, Jeannie Pettis, Brigit Ray, Thomas Stahler, Mariya Syrota, Frank Weglarz, Jesell Wilson.

East Moline -- Amanda Burgess, Jason Dennhardt, Michelle Duncombe, Samantha Hoffman, Michael Kerr, Samantha Knox, George Mathew, Sydney Schaar, Danny Staton.

Galva -- Ashley Maxwell, Kelly Volkert.

Geneseo -- Bradley Heller, Brandi Swanson.

Hillsdale -- Aiden Landman.

Kewanee -- Jesse Bitting.

Le Claire -- Tyler Choate.

Lynn Center -- Adam Heald.

Milan -- Justin Hinzman, Michelle Peterson.

Moline -- Leo Byrd III, Susanne Elf, Ryan Franks, Christopher Hennessey, Marcia Hill, Ryan Hlady, Reanna Kinkead, Molly Koenig, Zenaida Landeros, Jenna McAdam, Alissa Shaner, Susan Simosky, Jennifer Wicks.

Monmouth -- Christina Gillen, Allison Gladfelter.

Morrison -- Emily Frickenstein, Elizabeth Janicek, Rachael Nunziato.

Orion -- Mandi Gilbraith, Benjamin Leuck.

Prophetstown -- Maria Kincaid.

Rock Island -- Christina Amidon, Joseph Brown, Sara Daly, Adam Derrick, Meghan Harl, Sarah Hartman, Corey Hotle, Brianna Huber, Carolyn Krueger, Samuel La Mere, Lindsey Magee, Justeen McNett, Jacob Meisenbach, Kyla Moffitt, Malokele Nanivazo, Dillon Smith, Shawn Stolnacke, Tinette Stoner, Benjamin Urek, Christina Werner, James Wignall, Tavares Williams.

Seaton -- Matthew Randall.

Sherrard -- Barbara Ruane.

Silvis -- Lyndsie Van De Woestyne.

Taylor Ridge -- Holly Huntley.