Baker students cap college experience

Baker University President Pat Long, left, shakes the hand of graduate Annie Parr as she receives her diploma Sunday afternoon. Parr, a Baldwin City native, earned her degree in three years.

? While most students spend a minimum of four years working toward a bachelor’s degree, Annie Parr wanted to speed up her college life.

After just three years of higher education, Parr graduated Sunday. She was one of the 172 students who received bachelor’s degrees at Baker University’s early commencement ceremony.

“I’m really glad to be done,” Parr said. “I’m ready to move on and start the next phase of my life, which will be working somewhere.”

After a brief stint at Kansas University, Parr transferred to her hometown college. Parr, a 2006 Baldwin High School graduate, was familiar with Baker before enrolling there.

Her father, J.D. Parr, an assistant professor of music, has taught at Baker for many years. And Parr’s mother, Nancy Parr, is a fourth-grade teacher in Baldwin City. Coming home was natural for her.

“I started at KU, but I like Baker, because it is small and personable,” Parr said. “It is also close to home, which is nice. It was special to attend college where my dad taught, too.”

Parr wasn’t the only graduate with a tie to the university. Andrew Hannon, son of Baker University baseball coach Philip Hannon, ended his five-year tenure as a Wildcat on Sunday.

“It feels great to be done,” Hannon said. “This last semester was the hardest I had, so it feels really good. I never really expected to stay in Baldwin after high school, but I’m glad I did. I met a lot of great friends here. It’s been a great experience.”

Another BHS graduate to receive a degree Sunday was Haydon Hubbel. She was a classmate of Hannon’s in high school, too. Both graduated from BHS in 2004.

“It didn’t really hit me until I walked in the gym and everyone was there,” Hubbel said. “It was a little overwhelming, but after five years, I’m glad to be done. I’ve got more schooling ahead of me, but this is very special.”

At every commencement, bagpipes sound the end of an era for Baker University graduates. The bagpipes are played during the graduates’ walk through the Baldwin City campus and as they leave Collins Centers after the ceremony.

The tradition was started decades ago and has become a mainstay on the campus. When freshmen arrive in the fall, there’s a single bagpipe player walking around campus on the first day of class.

“I love the bagpipes,” Hubbel said. “They are really cool and they do a great job every year. Walking through the campus with the bagpipes playing is the best part of graduation.”

Dave Stewart, senior anchor at Metro Sports TV-Kansas City, delivered the keynote address Sunday for the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education and School of Nursing.

At the 4:30 p.m. graduation for the School of Education graduate students, Dale Dennis, deputy commissioner of education, was the featured speaker.