126 years of history conclude with the graduating class of 2023 from Finlandia University. A bittersweet ceremony began yesterday afternoon as winter and spring graduates and their families joined in the Hirvonen Hall auditorium for the final commencement ceremony.
Suomi College’s founder, Juho K. Nikander’s great grandson, Stephen Nikander, addressed the class of 2023 first. Graduates then heard from University President, Timothy Pinnow.
“It’s time to go do, what Finlandia has always been [doing]. Make it a verb, not a noun, so that it will live on in our actions, and in the actions of those who follow us. Thank you for the privilege of being the President of this incredible place, and its even more incredible people.” – Timothy Pinnow, University President of Finlandia University.
President Pinnow was followed by the class of 2023 student representative Kaitlyn Lundeen. Hailing from Maple Wisconsin, Lundeen played impressively for the Finland Lions women’s basketball team while earning a 2+2 degree- a BBA in Healthcare Management with a minor in Psychology, and an associates Physical Therapy Assistant degree.
“I hope we can remember the good times of going to games, the hours of bus trips, meetings with clubs, hanging out in the dorms, working on projects together, or going out with friends. I hope that we can find these memories to look back on, and tell future generations of what it meant to be a Lion. The stories that we can tell, some may think we’re over-exaggerating about. But in all honesty, they are probably true, because who else can say they went to F. U.? Thank you, and congratulations to the class of 2023.” – Kaitlyn Lundeen, Class of 2023 Student Representative for Finlandia University.
The Boldt Company CEO, Tom Boldt, was the keynote speaker. He and his family made many generous donations to the university over the past 30 years.
“Leverage your relationship with the beautiful and fragile planet. Cultivate the relationships you have made with each other and those whom who’ll meet in the future. It is the mission of Finlandia- an institution dedicated to academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service. And that’s why we will remember you, the Class of 2023, as the greatest class in Finlandia’s history. I know you will not disappoint us.” – Tom Boldt, CEO of The Boldt Company.
Reminiscent of Suomi College’s first graduates of 1904, the former students were called one at a time to receive their degrees and shake hands with university leadership.
Following brief closing remarks from university leaders, Finlandia’s final graduating class began their lives, taking away lessons from the school and people they met with them.
Later in the evening a small group of the community, alumni, and faculty joined again at Hirvonen Hall for a final send off to the university, and it’s 126 year legacy in the Copper Country.
As expected, the celebration was a somber occasion. President Pinnow set the tone of the evening, retelling a story of Suomi College founder, J.K. Nikander.
“There’s a story, if you read the history of Finlandia, from its very first year. Where J.K. Nikander, the first president, on his way back from South Range, made his driver pull over so that he could get out along the side of the road, and pray that Finlandia would make it through the week….That’s happened a few times in 126 years. So I thought it only appropriate that during one of the breaks today that I take the chain of the president’s office, that the president wears, out to South Range and pull over along the side of the road. And say a prayer for all of us as we move forward, because today, now, is about moving Finlandia from a noun to becoming a verb. Finlandia now becomes an action in the world. It won’t have a place. It won’t have buildings. But it still will have people.” – Timothy Pinnow, University President, Finlandia University
Faculty members, former university leaders, and friends of the school followed President Pinnow’s statements, telling many stories of their times on campus, teaching, going to class, or sharing bits of comforting literature.
Finlandia University’s final enrollment consisted of students who traveled from all over the country to attend, wishing to follow their dreams for the future, not unlike the many graduates who came before them.