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PROFILE: UC Commencement Planner Will March With The Graduates

Beth Wilhelmus has worked behind the scenes to make Commencement an unforgettable experience for graduates and their families. This year, she’ll experience the ceremony herself as she celebrates the completion of her bachelor’s degree.

Date: 5/24/2005
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
UC ingot Imagine planning a party for 4,000 people and their closest family and friends. As a member of the University of Cincinnati Commencement Committee, Beth Wilhelmus orders the flowers, food, caps and gowns for honored guests, and arranges the college lineup – just a few of the details she’s attending to – for spring Commencement. She’ll be on the phone and on the run on June 9, double-checking all of the preparations. Then, she will wear her own cap and gown to march in the afternoon ceremony at 2:15 p.m., Friday, June 10, in Fifth Third Arena at Shoemaker Center.

Beth Wilhelmus

After earning an associate’s degree in 2001, Beth will get her bachelor’s degree of applied and general studies in business from the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences. The Bridgetown, Ohio, resident is program manager for Student Affairs and Services and first started working as a telephone operator in Admissions in 1981. She took her first UC college class in 1982.

Beth has served as the purchasing contact for the 40-person Commencement Committee for three years. She’s seen for herself that no matter how much planning goes into such a large event, a new challenge can erupt on the big day. “Last year, I found out at a quarter-to-seven in the morning that the flowers didn’t arrive for hooding. I called the florist and they had a date mix-up and they weren’t going to get the flowers here in time for the morning ceremony. So, I did some quick thinking and let’s just say the Alumni Center was the florist for the hooding. Then, the flowers started getting delivered as the hooding ceremony was taking place, so we had the arrangements for Commencement that afternoon.”

As for her own graduation, it took Beth 23 years to get to the processional from the time she started classes at UC. The only daughter and youngest sibling in a family of five brothers (all of whom graduated from UC) married her high school sweetheart, Ken – whom she dated since she was 14 years old – shortly out of high school in 1982. They welcomed three daughters: Jessica, born in 1988, Anna, born in 1991, and Emma, born in 1994. With each birth, Beth would stop taking classes for a couple of years.

“When I first graduated from high school, I wasn’t focused on education,” she says. “I knew I wanted to go to college but I wasn’t in that mindset yet, so I took a year off to work. If there’s anything that I have taught my kids after going to school all of these years, it’s that it’s easier to complete your education if you don’t have so many commitments and that if you have a goal in mind, you’ll eventually get there.”

Beth adds that it was the support of her family that brought her to this milestone. “It takes a lot to run a family, and my husband has been doing extra for a lot of years when I’ve had to take time out to work on a term paper. As the girls got older, I would have them proof my paper for errors.

“I think the girls learned a lesson about staying in school from the sacrifices that I made because I had more commitments. They knew that some mornings I was up at 4 a.m. reading and studying. There were some family events that I couldn’t attend because I had papers to do. So over the years, I think they saw how hard it was to keep all of it going.”

Beth Wilhelmus

As for support on the job, Beth says it’s great to know that the people she works with are in her corner. “Debbie Weinstein, Tom Hadley and Vice President Mitchel Livingston always have been supportive of my education.”

“I’m very pleased that Beth completed her bachelor’s degree,” said Hadley, who is associate vice president of Student Affairs and Services. “It really takes an extraordinary person to do so much.”

After spring Commencement is over, Beth, as a member of the Commencement committee, will be looking ahead to planning December Commencement exercises for the 2005 summer and fall graduates. That ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10 in Fifth Third Arena. But despite her regular UC duties and her role in the planning of the fall ceremony, Beth is looking forward to one break this summer: “This will be the first summer that I haven’t taken classes in a very, very long time.”


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