By REN BISHOP
COLUMBIA — Draped with ivy and smiling in the afternoon sun, the newest board members of the Columbia College Alumni Association were initiated with an old school tradition: the ivy chain.
It was created by President Luella St. Clair in 1900.
“Luella St. Clair was a visionary in her own time,” said Dale Coe Simons, president of the Columbia College Alumni Association. “She wanted to create a tradition that really united the graduating class and to keep the connection going.”
Participants are entwined with a chain of ivy going from one shoulder to the next to symbolize the connection they have forged during their time at Columbia College, Simons said.
The ceremony is held every May when graduating seniors walk through Rogers Gate and form a circle at Bass Commons as a part of commencement week activities.
The ivy is ceremoniously cut to symbolize that participants are leaving and entering the next stage of their lives, said Lynne Stuver Baker, an alumni board member who graduated in 1964.
“Ivy chain not only culminated my years at Columbia College, it culminated my opportunity to be a part of a very special family for two years,” Baker said.
The Friday ceremony at Bass Commons united the 27 board members as they begin a five-year strategic plan for the alumni association, Simons said.
“To become the model alumni association, we have to have a plan,” Simons said. “Our purpose is to foster lasting relationships and sustain traditions.”
The ivy chain ceremony will be extended to all 35 branches of Columbia College, said Bill Wright, regional director of the Columbia College Alumni Association for the Jacksonville, Fla., area.
Wright was a first-time participant in the ceremony.
“It was pretty cool, a very special something that I won’t forget,” he said.
“This was my first time, and it was truly an honor to stand with the alumni in this time-honored and cherished tradition,” said Michael Kateman, executive director of development, alumni and public relations.
The ceremony can be emotional as well, Simons said.
“When I participated in ’65, every time those scissors snipped we cried,” she said. “There were 100 girls in our class and we all cried. You take it with you, though. The physical ivy is cut, but the fact that you remain connected spiritually stays with you always.”