Get Pumped Up! 9 Fun Facts About Past Ashford Commencement Ceremonies

proud ashford university graduates

Oprah Winfrey once said, "The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but on significance — and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning." These words spoken by the accomplished entertainment/media executive and philanthropist may hold a different meaning for each member of Ashford University’s graduating class of fall 2018, but the significance is equally momentous for all who have earned their degrees. 

As roughly 1,050 graduates prepare to celebrate their academic accomplishments at the commencement ceremony in San Diego on October 14, take a look back at 9 highlights and notable facts from commencements past and present to help you get excited for graduation day.

1. Speaking of Oprah…


In 2013, her partner, Stedman Graham, noted educator, author, and businessman needed no introduction when he delivered the keynote address to the graduating class. Watch as he talks to the audience about the importance of knowing who you are and what he says is the most powerful word in the world: love. 

2. Tip of the Cap

graduation cap

Many Ashford University graduates discover who they are while pursuing their degrees and love putting their accomplishments on display. Aside from their framed diplomas and updated LinkedIn profiles, perhaps there is no better way to express their achievements and excitement over completing their studies than with their decorated caps at commencement. Check out this collection of favorites from the last few years. 

3. Lucky Number 8

ashford university commencement 2014 program

In many cultures, the number 8 is considered to be good luck. In 2014, San Diego hosted the fall commencement ceremony for the first time, and this fall marks the 8th ceremony to take place since the inaugural event. If there’s any truth to this numerological symbolism, the graduates may just experience an abundance of good things in years to come, and not just because they earned a degree from Ashford.

4. Ashford’s Got Talent

Giavonia Fields

Giavonia Fields may have had a little luck on her side, but it was sheer talent that led the aspiring singer and Ashford alumna to perform her rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the fall 2014 commencement ceremony in San Diego. Fields was the winner of a nationwide online competition among Ashford University graduates to earn the honor of singing the national anthem. 

5. Friends Forever


Talent and career paths bolstered by earning an Ashford degree aren’t the only things being fostered online. Some students have developed long-lasting friendships. Case in point, Rebecca Wolfe and Ashlyn Hemmer. Although they originally met on the Ashford University residential campus in Clinton, Iowa, when that campus closed in 2016, the best friends decided to complete their degrees online with Ashford. With each other’s continued support, they graduated in 2018. Wolfe shared their story on Ashford’s Facebook page as part of the #AUConnections contest and won a trip to San Diego to walk in the spring commencement. Naturally she brought Hemmer with her, and the two made the procession hand-in-hand, solidifying their achievements in unison. Watch their story. 

6. By the Numbers

ashford university commencement crowd

There’s nothing like the feeling of walking at the commencement ceremony to mark your academic achievements. This fall an estimated 1,050 Ashford graduates will take part in the procession. Since 2014, 14,582 regalia have been purchased and roughly 10,745 graduates will have walked when the celebrations come to a close on the afternoon of October 14.

7. Music Man


From the National Anthem to the iconic Pomp and Circumstance, commencement ceremonies have their fair share of musical moments. But on May 4, 2014, graduates and guests of the Ashford spring commencement were treated to a surprising performance when speaker Sgt. Keni Thomas, one of the U.S. Army Rangers involved in the battle that would later be recounted in the book and movie Black Hawk Down, took to the stage with a guitar in hand. Toward the end of his keynote address Thomas, who is also a country singer, told the crowd, “What I can spend 20 minutes talking to all y’all about, I can sum up in a three-minute song,” and then performed his original song "Not Me." Watch his speech and performance. 

8. Don’t Mess with Mother Nature

ashford university grad with umbrella

Whether it’s writing speeches and ordering regalia or just making it to commencement from afar, there’s a lot of planning by all parties that goes into such an event. The thought of having to cancel at the last minute would be devastating. But in 2012, that’s exactly what happened. Severe weather in Clinton, Iowa, disrupted the graduation ceremony on April 28 after winds, rain, and debris from the night before caused the outdoor commencement stage to collapse, deeming the field where the ceremony was to take place hazardous and forcing the cancellation of the day’s commencement. The event was saved, however, when the University announced that the graduates were invited to the residential campus the following day to walk across an indoor stage and receive their diplomas. 

9. Record-Setting Day

ashford university Iowa campus

Ashford University made the history books two-fold in 2009. For the first time, the University held three ceremonies in one day at the residential campus in Clinton, Iowa. On December 12, nationally renowned broadcast journalist Susan Stamberg delivered the keynote address three times to the approximate 1,400 guests who were in attendance. What’s more, that year Ashford had the most graduates in its then history, with 5,268 students receiving their degrees.

Commencement is always an unforgettable event. With the fall 2018 ceremony just around the corner, the Ashford community waits to see what new moments will go down as some of the University’s most memorable. 


Written by Erin Ansley, content specialist for Bridgepoint Education

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