Libby Spencer definitely made the most of her time at Silver Lake College.
In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in only three years, Spencer participated in an array of campus activities and embraced a leadership role as a Mother Generose Cahill Scholarship recipient.
“I’ve always loved everything about Silver Lake College and appreciate what it has given me, and I’ve tried my best to represent the college well and help make a difference,” she said. “I truly enjoyed my time here.”
Spencer, 21, was honored to give the Response of the Graduates speech at Silver Lake College’s winter commencement ceremony Dec. 13 at the Franciscan Center for Music Education and Performance. She graduated with magna cum laude honors, majoring in English and minoring in Spanish.
Professors said they’ll miss having Spencer on campus.
“While a student at Silver Lake, Libby really added a lot to the classroom environment,” said Emilie Lindemann, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of English who also worked with Spencer on The Novice, the campus’ literary journal. “She entered the classroom as an engaged writer and reader who helped build a sense of community — even in an early morning literature course.
“In workshop-based courses like ‘Poetry Writing’ and ‘Writing and the Visual Arts,’ Libby inspired and encouraged classmates to experiment and push their writing further — always with respect and kindness. … Perhaps what stood out the most about Libby is her ability to think not only creatively but critically, as well as her ability to succeed in independent projects as well as collaborative ones.”
Mother Generose Cahill honorees, who receive full-tuition scholarships, are selected for embodying the Silver Lake College traditions of academic achievement, leadership and community service.
Spencer showed time and again she fit those criteria. She helped create an Internship Fair, started a hat and mitten drive, volunteered in the community during Service Day activities, played on the volleyball team, performed with the Chorale, presented a Student Symposium paper on food imagery and eating disorders, and served on the staff of The Novice.
All while juggling a course load that enabled her to graduate with honors in three short years — which twice meant handling 19-credit semesters.
“I really did enjoy everything about Silver Lake College, but I wanted to get out there in the workforce and try things for myself and not just read about how my job works,” she said. “Why not get started early? I like a lot of challenges, and graduating earlier than four years was something I wanted to achieve for myself. I’m glad I did it.”
Spencer was hired as a news producer for WFRV TV Channel 5 in Green Bay this past summer. Management was so impressed with her skills that she was hired before finishing her internship.
Although she’s enjoying life in the news industry, Spencer said she’ll never forget her experiences at Silver Lake College.
“It gave me the best of both worlds — I was close to home and got a great education, but I was also living in the dorms all three years so I kind of had my own world away from home,” she said.
And, as she told the commencement ceremony audience, “From the minute I first visited Silver Lake, I felt welcome. I felt like I was part of a family. No, it wasn’t because I could call a few of my professors ‘Sister.’ It was because the professors here were as invested in my education and well-being just as much as I was.”
That was evident early on. Before graduating from Manitowoc Lutheran High School in 2011, Spencer tagged along with her brother, Nick, to one of his classes at Silver Lake College.
“A week later, I received a nice card from the teacher, Dr. (Albert) Sears (a Professor of English), and that was kind of the final thing that made me know Silver Lake was the right fit for me,” she said.
“I liked the personalization you got as a student. You could really interact with your teachers. Like one of my Spanish classes, there were two students and one teacher so you really got a lot of attention. You won’t find that at a different college, the way they care about you. They treat you like you’re family.”
Spencer said she’s confident that the Franciscan values she learned at Silver Lake College — community, compassion, peacemaking, and reverence for creation, along with servant leadership — will guide her and her fellow graduates throughout their lives.
“As we move into our future, remember that Silver Lake College has prepared us well. We can be confident in that,” she said during her speech. “Appreciate and use the skills that you’ve been taught. Always appreciate and apply the Franciscan values to your own lives.
“Our education doesn’t have to end here, though. I encourage you to strive to be life-long learners. Wake up every day excited and eager to face the challenges that lie ahead. Don’t ever settle. Dream big!”