Toast with T. Haas celebrates GVSU graduates

Meghan McBrady

As dozens of champagne bottles popped and students conversed over drinks and appetizers, Grand Valley State University’s fall 2016 graduating class raised a glass to the end of their undergraduate careers.

With over 400 students registered for the Toast with T. Haas event at the L.V. Eberhard Center at GVSU’s Pew Campus last Thursday, Dec. 8, congratulations were thrown out by Laker for a Lifetime volunteers to GVSU’s newest alumni.

Chelsea Renner, one of the attendees at the event who chatted and ate food with friends before the speeches began, said while it is sad her four years at GVSU are over, she is excited to see what her life will be like beyond being in the classroom.

“It’s scary because I’ve done school, I know how to do school and I know I’m good at school,” she said. “It’s a different experience, but I’m kind of excited to be out and on my own and not do homework or tests and studying.”

Ella Fritzemeier, GVSU’s student senate president, spoke over the chatter of the graduating students and talked about various things the seniors have endured together.

From the various building expansions at the Allendale Campus, tailgating, selfies with Louie the Laker, the endless blizzards and the “Wrecking Ball,” scandal of 2014, she said worthwhile memories have been made because of those experiences.

“All of these experiences are what connects us to be Lakers and a Laker family,” Fritzemeier said. “You should all be able to come back and see what other expansions will be made in the years to come.”

Preceding the toast, a video was shown recapping the graduating class’ last four years at GVSU. During the video, various majors and organizations at the university were highlighted to demonstrate how the various skills and lessons learned in and out of the classroom would then be spread out to a new generation of students.

As everyone readied themselves for the toast, GVSU President Thomas Haas was invited to speak. As he stepped onto the stage and greeted the future alumni, chatter within the room stopped and all eyes were on him.

Beyond instructing students to sing “Happy Birthday” to several of the students and leading a mannequin challenge, Haas congratulated students for the future ahead of them.

Stating how the students have accomplished so much in a short period of time, Haas said the maturity and the relationships everyone has sustained will last a lifetime.

“When you have orientation I say to students who are coming in that particular year, thank you for choosing us,” Haas said. “Now, when you wrap it all up and whether it be four years, five years and grad programs and all, you have accomplished much and I am so grateful that you chose us.”

Focusing on the pride Haas and the rest of the faculty and staff at GVSU feel for the graduating class, he said the lessons and success attained at the university will reflect the future years and service to others.

As Haas raised his champagne glass, with the rest of the room following, he said he is filled with optimism for the difference everyone in the room will make in the world.

“To you, those who are loyal, steadfast and true, to black, white and blue and to the finest class, the class of its own, the class of 2016,” he said. “From my heart, thank you for being Lakers.”