While most graduates donned their caps, gowns and academic stoles at UW Bothell's 23rd Annual Commencement Ceremony, Student Veteran Association president Michael Thom and more than 30 other graduates wore a brand-new stole around their necks specially designed for our military veterans - a first for the University of Washington tri-campus.
The stoles are the result of a collaborative process that began last summer. Thom, an Army veteran, shared his vision for an officially recognized commencement stole. SVA vice president Joseph Shadwick, a first- class petty officer in the Navy reserves, was a step ahead having already created a presentation to begin the process. He chalks it up to great minds thinking alike. The duo provided commencement director Lisa Walker with a plan for design and incorporating the stole into commencement with an adaptation for the Seattle and Tacoma campuses.
Walker helped refine the plan and acquire approval to use UW colors. "Being able to use the UW colors on our stoles means this is a bridge. We are alumni of the University of Washington Bothell," says Thom. "We are veterans. We have something in common with veterans of other wars, but we also have something in common with the community. We are here to help the community."
After moving the stole design and policy through the campuswide approval process and going through several reviews, the stole became official.
Chancellor Yeigh, a Navy veteran, was the first to receive a stole, “I was honored to have received the very first stole,” says Yeigh. “These young leaders took it upon themselves to honor their fellow veterans, create a new policy for commencement, and push the process to completion. This is our military at home making a difference in our community.”
The SVA also honored Walker for her leadership in the project, "This is a big deal for the SVA and I was very happy that I was able to help out a group of students who have done so much for our campus and our country."
On Sunday, June 15, veteran graduates proudly wore their new purple and gold stoles, complete with the UW seal, a red, white and blue ribbon, and the military branch in which they served boldly printed down the side. Thanks to funding from the club council, the $23 stoles were free to the veteran graduates.
As Thom and his fellow veterans walked across the stage at commencement, Shadwick, a rising senior, was there. The incoming SVA president chose to spend his first Father’s Day with his wife and 11 month old baby cheering on his fellow veterans as they wore the stoles for the first time.
Thom and Shadwick say five Seattle campus graduates wore the stoles at their commencement the day before, but that only made them more proud. They are working with both the Seattle and Tacoma campuses to provide the stoles for future commencements. The topic is also trending on the SVA President’s Facebook page where members at other universities across the country say they will work toward the same honor.