Westminster College Faculty Members Hit the Road to Visit Graduating Seniors

Six Westminster College education faculty members were so proud of their graduating seniors that they drove nearly 800 miles last week throughout Kansas and Missouri to deliver celebration baskets to the students. The seven seniors who were sheltering in place in their homes hail from Overland Park, KS, to the St. Louis, MO, suburbs.

The seniors would have officially graduated from Westminster on May 9 but now are anticipating a postponed ceremony on Aug. 8 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To commemorate their seniors, the College dimmed the lights on the historic Columns to the Westminster colors of blue and white through May 9.

Dr. Barri Bumgarner, Associate Professor of Education and Digital Blue Coordinator, said her department represents the personalized touch all Westminster professors provide their students. “We’re a small college that really knows and loves our students, and we know they deserve recognition for their hard work this semester,” Bumgarner added enthusiastically.

An Apple Learning Specialist, Bumgarner headed up Westminster’s Digital Blue iPad Initiative that began Fall 2019 in which each student received an iPad for coursework. She also oversaw the recent transition to distance learning when the College suddenly went online on March 23.

The tech guru said her students easily pivoted to the new format and are well-prepared and eager to begin their teaching careers. Bumgarner added that the hardworking group deserved the recognition they normally would receive before graduation.

“We typically hand out celebration baskets after the students’ exit interviews,” Bumgarner explained. “Since they did the interviews virtually on April 27, we decided to take the celebration to them.”

Led by Bumgarner, the jolly colleagues included Linda Williams, Tami Ensor, Marsha Tyson and Susan Serota. Professor Emeritus Dr. Robert Cowles joined the crew for one leg of the journey.

The group jumped into two little, loudly decorated cars — blue balloons flopping in the wind. Giant hand-decorated signs added to the merry spectacle glimpsed by many on I-70 and Business 54.

“I got quite a few messages from people who saw our decorated cars in various towns and on the highway,” Bumgarner said with a laugh.

The graduating senior stars of the road trip included Beau Thompson of Fulton, MO, Anna Rinehart of Overland Park, KS, Reagan DeCamp of Kansas City, MO, Anna Sodemann of Richmond Heights, MO, Carissa Bentlage and Emmi Theroff of Jefferson City, MO, and Therasia Brautigam of Russellville, MO.

“It was an incredibly rewarding experience for us, and we received a lot of positive feedback from parents,” Bumgarner reflected later. “I am so proud of our education folks, and I’m incredibly proud to work with such wonderful colleagues. Blue Jays rock!”

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.