UNIVERSITY PARK — LisaBontrager said she had to wear waterproof mascara Saturday as she sent off a group of French horn students to graduate.
“We were trying to fail them so they could stay,” the music and French horn professor said, jokingly. “They’ve been a great bunch.”
Bontrager was referring to Dylan Arnold, Jonathan Mountain and Ethan Ruble, who were three of her students walking the stage at Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium.
“When you work with them one-on-one for four years, they become like your kids,” Bontrager said.
Students from the College of Arts and Architecture, which includes the department of music, marched from the grassy knoll behind the music building to Eisenhower Auditorium, accompanied by a six-member band.
Each year, the college hosts a pre-graduation breakfast along with a musical performance by professors, undergraduate and graduate students from the music department who lead their peers on the walk.
This year, the musical group included Jimmy Finnerty, Mac Himes, J.T. Hofmann, Derek Rechberger, Alex Schwind and Ryan Smith.
The sound of brass and a four-string banjo echoed along Curtin Road as they played “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Curtin Road was filled with viewers who cheered the graduates all the way to the auditorium.
Arnold’s sister, Jenna Schroeder, said she was proud of her brother.
Arnold, a French horn and history major, began playing the instrument in elementary school. He’ll be in law school at the University of Richmond this fall, but said that music will always be a part of his life.
“I always knew this is what I wanted to do, but wanted to keep up with music,” he said. “This school has been so great to me. It’s a small class, and felt like another family.”
Arnold spent the past four years with fellow French horn players Mountain, a music education major, and Ruble, a general music major with an emphasis in the French horn.
Mountain is hoping to get a teaching job, and Ruble, of Hershey, said he’ll be living in Boalsburg and hopes to open his own studio and teach private lessons.
The three have become close friends.
Thirty-nine students graduated from the School of Music. In all, 280 students graduated from the College of Arts and Architecture.
Guest speaker Beverly McIver sent the graduates off with a message to find happiness in their lives; part of her speech included Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.”
McIver is a professor of art at North Carolina Central University, and has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Penn State.
“It’s creative people who shape and mold the future, but as creative beings, you have the talent to problem-solve,” she said. “Please remember this is a journey, not a race.”
A report from Penn State said that 13,301 students graduated universitywide this spring. At University Park, 10 students received an associate degree, 8,924 received bachelor’s degrees, 901 completed their master’s and 213 were doctoral degree candidates.
“I’m leaving this place with something I wouldn’t have gotten if I went somewhere else,” Mountain said. “It’s like having another family and wouldn’t have traded my time for anything.”