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Candlelighting tradition reignites pride

With commencement swiftly approaching, graduating seniors are shuffling across campus eager to finish their final weeks at Castleton. Despite all of the excitement surrounding their send off, the candlelighting ceremony will provide them with one last opportunity to reflect on their Castleton experience before the big day.”It’s part of a tradition that goes way back to when the school was small,” said Ray Sevigny, president of the Castleton Alumni Board. “It’s a little tradition everyone can share.”

Sevigny, a 1968 graduate, said that the candlelighting was the first thing he participated in as a Castleton student.

Candlelighting has taken place on campus for over 100 years. The Alumni Gates, which were gifts from the classes of 1932 and 1933, play an important role in this tradition. As freshman, students are invited to light their candles and pass through the Alumni Gates, entering the college. Four years later, students relight their candles and walk back through the Alumni Gates, this time leaving the college.

“The ceremonies work as book ends,” said Matthew Patry, academic counselor.

Patry, a 1986 graduate, remembers the ceremony from his freshman orientation.

“We were told to hold onto our candles as freshman, to use them when you graduate,” he said.

Patry said that the candlelighting was a meaningful experience for him as a student.

“It gave you a time to reflect on your accomplishments over the past four years,” he said. “It gives you something to look back on and enjoy.”

Although Patry sympathizes with seniors who are feeling rushed and bombarded with last minute tasks, he said that candlelighting is not something you want to push to the wayside.

“Be a part of the moment, take credit for what you’ve done here,” he said. “You will later on say I’m glad I did it.”

Dennis Proulx, Dean of Students and 1987 graduate, said that it is important for students to understand the tradition behind candlelighting.

“The years we capture students’ attention are the years we get the best response,” he said.

Like Patry, Proulx said that the ceremony is not something you’ll want to miss.

“It’s such an important moment in time to mark the beginning and end of your career,” he said. “It’s 15 minutes of your time, which I think you will hold onto the rest of your life.”

This year’s candlelighting will be held on the steps of Woodruff at the conclusion of commencement rehearsal on Thursday, May 12. The college encourages all graduating seniors to participate.

According to Sevigny, luminaries will be set up along the route and faculty and staff members are welcome to line up behind the luminaries, something he says is part of the old tradition.

“You can’t tell people they have to be there, they just have to want to be there,” he said. “Do it, experience it and try to find the meaning of it.