When Scottish bagpipes play at Sunday’s commencement for Baker University, it will be a special sound.
The tradition was started decades ago and has become a mainstay on the Baldwin City campus. Each fall, a single bagpipe player walks around campus on the first day of class.
It’s an introduction to what’s to come during the next four years. And on graduation day, students and their guests are met with a full bagpipe band.
“I think it’s going to feel amazing,” said Chelsey Forge, Oskaloosa, who will graduate Sunday. “It’s an accomplishment, just knowing that this is the end of my Baker experience and will be really emotional for me.
“It will mean a lot that I’ve come full circle now,” said Forge, adding that she’s come to appreciate the bagpipes. “They’ve grown on me over the years. It was a little strange at first. But it’s really neat.”
The pipers will start playing shortly before the 1 p.m. Sunday graduation ceremony for students in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education and School of Nursing. Dave Stewart, senior anchor at Metro Sports TV-Kansas City, will deliver the keynote address.
The pipes will be played again before the 4:30 p.m. graduation for School of Education graduate students. Dale Dennis, deputy commissioner of education, will be the featured speaker.
The sound won’t be lost on Timothy Obiefule, Lawrence, who will be receiving his bachelor of science in computer science. Obiefule was a member of the Baker Symphonic Band and played for graduations before his.
“I do like the bagpipes,” Obiefule said. “The coolest part is watching the people stand up as the bagpipes come in.”
The ceremonies will be at George F. Collins Sports and Convention Center on campus. It’s the pristine campus, educational opportunities and faculty that drew Forge to Baker.
“I’m from Oskaloosa originally, so I’m from the Lawrence area and thought I’d always go to KU,” she said. “My high school counselor suggested that I check Baker out because of how it matched up with me. So, I checked out the campus and teachers and loved it.
“It’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” said Forge, who will receive a bachelor’s in accounting and business and will graduate summa cum laude. “It’s been a perfect fit for me.”
And that fit might not be over yet for the prestigious McGowan Scholarship winner and a member of the Lawrence Journal-World’s all-academic team in 2005. She has a job with a Kansas City accounting firm that starts in November. She’ll do an internship before that. She also intends to pursue a Master of Business Administration.
“Eventually, I’m going to get my MBA. I’m going to take a two-year break and work,” said Forge, adding that she probably will earn her second degree at Baker. “Why not stick with a good thing?”