CLINTON — While the door to the future opened wide for nearly 200 Ashford University graduates Saturday, their commencement marked the closure of the nearly 100-year-old university's campus.

The institution, formerly known as Mount St. Clare College, opened in 1918; its owner, Bridgepoint Education announced last July that the campus would close at the end of this school year due to declining enrollment.

According to Jane McAuliffe, executive vice president/chief academic officer for Bridgepoint Education, when all is said and done, around 1,200 students received their degrees from the Clinton Campus of Ashford University in the 11 years it was in Clinton. She also said around 5,000 students received their degrees at the insitutions that preceded Ashford in Clinton.

"What's really special is that you're part of a nearly century-old tradition," McAuliffe told graduates in her commencement speech.

To celebrate those final graduates walking across the stage, their family and friends packed the Durgin Educational Center one final time.

"This time next year this campus won't exist," Student Government Association member Juan Cabrera Sandoval said. "We have to go forward, be proud and represent Ashford."

During his speech, Sandoval recollected the moments on Ashford University's Clinton Campus that transformed him both as a student and a person.

Recalling one influential moment with a professor, he told the crowd that the future is what you make it.

"He taught me that nothing is set in stone, everything is fluid," he said during his speech.

McAuliffe's commencement speech was based around the theme "If these walls could talk."

She spoke about how the walls would recount the sense of community, the academic achievement and the unique instances that have occured over the years.

"What we will take away is much greater, the support for one another much stronger, the friendships will last much longer, graduates you shared with us your years here," McAuliffe said.

Campus Director Charlie Minnick left students with these final words after they had crossed the stage.

"Wherever you go, always remember — once a Saint, always a Saint," he said.

Nick Moffitt can be reached at nickmoffitt@clintonherald.com.