Commencement is always a special day, but for one member of the Class of 2019, it was not only special — it was a complete surprise!
The belated commencement ceremony was held at noon Saturday, June 22, at the West Liberty University’s Boyle Conference Center as Joshua Ridgeway of St. Clairsville, Ohio, was honored by his friends with the surprise ceremony.
Ridgeway missed the May 4 commencement because of his military duties and was told to stop at the Boyle Center last Saturday to assist with a forgotten university duty. He was visibly surprised when he was told on entering the room that he needed to don a cap and gown as the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” was streamed.
“We appreciate what you do as a member of our military, and we want to be able to show our appreciation collectively,” said Dr. Stephen Greiner, WLU president who assumed the role of both president and commencement speaker for the short festivities.
Ridgeway’s friends planned the ceremony and invited Greiner to be a part of it last spring when they realized that Ridgeway would miss the regular commencement. He was happy to comply.
“I didn’t hesitate. We were able to agree to a day and a time, and it’s a complete surprise, so your friends are to be complimented and thanked for getting this ceremony together. But it was a no-brainer to comply, to this request for a student serving in the military,” Greiner said.
Ridgeway was a criminal justice major and earned a degree from the College of Liberal Arts. A member of the Hilltopper wrestling team, he also was a member of the Chi Nu fraternity and served as a resident assistant in the Office of Housing and Student Life.
A native of North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, Ridgeway is now enrolled in a WLU online master’s degree program in criminology. His career goal is to work for the Drug Enforcement Administration.