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LEWISBURG, Pa. — Reflecting on the past is inevitable for all seniors on the eve of graduation, but especially so for Beth Eanelli, the student speaker at Bucknell University's 163rd Commencement. While her classmates take stock of the last four years, Eanelli is looking back a bit further — 70 years, to be exact.
"My grandmother is 89," said Eanelli. "She talked about Bucknell throughout my childhood, and I always wondered what was so special about this place." Eanelli didn't find out for herself until she was a high school senior, ready to embark on her own college search.
"The first time I visited Bucknell, my grandmother was so excited," Eanelli remembered. "My dad and I went on to see 20 other schools after Bucknell, but there was something that kept bringing me back here. When I was accepted, my grandmother said I was helping to live out her legacy — the one she never got to finish."
Josephine Avia, Eanelli's grandmother, arrived at Bucknell in 1942 to study zoology. She marveled at the construction of the new Dana Engineering building and loved sitting on the Quad to watch vibrant Bucknell sunsets.
Then everything changed. The United States entered World War II, and Avia had to leave campus long before she had the chance to graduate from Bucknell. Though, in keeping with University tradition, she is still considered a Bucknell alumna.
Avia's Bucknell memories never faded. They lived on in the stories she told her granddaughter. "She's always regretted that she wasn't able to stay here for all four years," said Eanelli.
Watching Eanelli thrive at her alma mater has no doubt helped ease Avia's regret.
The psychology major and creative writing minor studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, and traveled to Nicaragua with the Bucknell Brigade. She took leadership roles in her sorority, Delta Gamma, as well as in the Residential Education Emerging Leaders program. Eanelli welcomed first-year and potential students to campus as an Orientation Assistant and Admissions tour guide, and completed two summers of undergraduate research with the psychology department. Finally, after Commencement, she'll serve as a Reunion Ambassador for returning Bucknell alumni.
Eanelli and her grandmother will remember fondly many of the same things about Bucknell — the buildings, the Quad, the sunsets — but the Class of 2013 holds a special place in Eanelli's heart.
"I'm going to miss walking into the Bison and seeing a million faces I know, and watching a class go from being all strangers at the beginning to friends at the end," she said. "The community makes Bucknell such a special place."
When Avia returns to Bucknell May 19, she will once again sit on the Quad — this time to watch her granddaughter graduate from the university she left behind.
"It's always in the back of my mind, every single day that I'm here," said Eanelli. "My grandmother was my inspiration for coming to Bucknell."
Now, 70 years later, Eanelli has her own Bucknell stories to tell.
Bucknell University's 163rd Commencement celebration will take place on Sunday, May 19, beginning at 10 a.m. Bucknell alumnus and United States Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati will deliver the keynote address. For those unable to attend, the ceremony will be live streamed. The ceremony will also be shown in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts and Trout Auditorium in the Vaughan Literature Building. For a complete schedule of commencement events, registration and general information, visit Commencement 2013.
Barring heavy rain or severe weather, the Commencement ceremony will be held on the Academic Quad; guests should dress accordingly. In the event inclement weather prompts a decision to hold the ceremony indoors, an alert will be emailed to the campus community and posted to the University's homepage and social media channels. || Follow BucknellU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.