CLINTON — Clinton welcomed a slew of national and international guests Saturday, all gathered together to celebrate a long-awaited accomplishment — college graduation.
Although the commencement ceremony took place in Moline, Ill., students traveled to the campus in Clinton for an opportunity to visit with faculty and staff at the university, some for the first time in their college careers.
Public Relations Director Larry Libberton said Saturday represented more than just the culmination of students receiving their diplomas; it acted as an opportunity for many online students to visit their Alma mater for the first time.
"Most of them have never been to Clinton or the campus before," Libberton said. "This is a big weekend for them. It's a chance for them to really be a part of Ashford."
Students traveled from all over including places like Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida, St. Thomas and the Republic of Georgia among many others to take part in the celebration, but the students weren't the only ones who made the trip.
Ashford University President Richard Pattenaude also came to Clinton on Saturday and had the opportunity to speak to the hundreds of online graduates who took part in the commencement celebrations.
"Online students love coming here," Pattenaude said. "They feel it is their campus, too. This is an opportunity to bring together Clinton students and online students in a great celebration."
Some of the events included a presentation of honor society recipients, a fun zone area for kids, student ambassador-led campus tours, an Ashford history presentation and several faculty meet and greets.
Pattenaude said that it's because he and the staff in San Diego, Calif., Ashford's corporate office location, and the staff in Clinton work so closely together that the university will continue to see success in the future.
"I have much faith in the local leadership here," Pattenaude said. "We are investing $4 million this year in the physical plant here to assure that we are giving our students a first class education."
That local leadership starts with Ashford University vice president and campus director John Ballheim.
His presence on Saturday represented the connection between the university campus, the corporate office and everything in between.
"It is heartening to have thousands of people on campus," Ballheim said. "The fact that they want to come to Clinton demonstrates their connection to the university. Commencement is always an exciting time."