Baker University’s fall commencement will be Saturday and Sunday at the George F. Collins Sports and Convention Center on the Baldwin City campus. More than 250 undergraduate students and more than 260 graduate students are candidates for degrees.
Kansas University doesn’t conduct ceremonies for December graduates.
Here’s the schedule at Baker for ceremonies:
• School of Professional and Graduate Studies, 1 p.m. Saturday. School of Education graduate degree ceremony, 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education and School of Nursing and School of Professional and Graduate Studies, 1 p.m. Sunday.
• Families and friends are invited to receptions for graduates at 2:30 p.m. both days at Harter Union lobby.
• Dr. Teresa M. Wesley, a Platte City, Mo., physician, will be keynote speaker at the 1 p.m. Saturday ceremony.
• Andy Tompkins, dean of Pittsburg State University’s College of Education and former state education commissioner, will speak at the 4:30 p.m. Saturday ceremony.
• The Rev. Ira L. DeSpain, minister to Baker University since 1992, will speak to the undergraduates at the Sunday ceremony.
Adam Barry remembers it as a time when his priorities became crystal clear.
A free safety on Baker University’s football team and an active member of Mungano, Baker’s diversity organization, he was right in the middle of the football season, in mid-October 2008, when he got the call.
The call told him his mother, Janice Smith, a single parent who had raised him and his two brothers, was dead at age 50.
“How do we deal with it?” Barry recalled thinking, shaken by the unexpected news. “How do we, I guess, try to survive through it?”
Bolstered by the strength of his family, his faith and his inner resolve, Barry survived, and will participate this Sunday in Baker’s commencement ceremony, just one semester later than he originally planned.
That’s because after the call, he returned to San Diego, and took off the spring 2009 semester to take care of his two brothers, Justin, 20, and Keeynan, 17.
He never knew his father — “I never worried about that,” he says, simply, before moving along to another topic. The closest other relatives to the family lived in Chicago.
So it fell to Barry to run the house, pay the bills, cook meals and make sure his two brothers’ clutter didn’t overrun the house.
“They needed me as much as I needed them in the situation,” he said. “We pretty much needed each other to fight through it.”
But this semester, he returned to complete the final semester for his bachelor’s degree in business management, often keeping in contact with Baker officials even from home, he said, to ensure he was on track to graduate.
He’s been studying hard for his glut of finals — he’s taking 18 credit hours in his final semester.
As for his future, he’ll be headed back to San Diego, probably to San Diego State University, to get a Master’s of Business Administration degree.
He’s been getting nervous, because he’s been applying for jobs without any bites so far.
“I really, really want to work in sports,” he said, probably something in the business side.
He doesn’t get too worked up about not finding a job, though. After all, he’s been through worse.
“Persevere,” he said, when asked if he had any advice for others facing difficult times. “Times are tough now, but they’ll get better.”
Ron Holden, Baker’s director of multicultural affairs, said he sees nothing but success in Barry’s future. People like Adam just don’t fail, he said. Others see his strength right away, and they admire him for it.
The two shared a love of football — Holden is a former Baker player — and frequently they talked through Barry’s involvement in the diversity organization.
“Unselfish,” Holden said, searching for just the right way to describe Barry. “That’s the word.”
Holden said Barry’s mother was a source of strength and would have wanted him to graduate.
“He’s a testament to his mother,” Holden said. “She raised him to be a man and to be able to overcome obstacles.”
He said he’ll miss Barry when he’s gone, and that he’ll leave a void among those who knew him.
When Barry graduates this weekend, he’ll be the first in his family to do so. His brothers will be in attendance, along with other friends and family.
Then, it’s back to San Diego for all of them to see Keeynan graduate from high school in June.