The Commercial Building at the McLeod County Fairground was filled with big smiles, hearty congratulations and proud friends and family as the Ridgewater class of 2022 walked to the traditional music of “Pomp and Circumstance.” The Hutchinson campus celebrated 94 graduates Thursday afternoon, while Willmar campus’ 187 graduates received their diplomas on Friday. More than 700 graduates were eligible to participate in commencement activities.

Mike Kutzke, vice president of student success, served as emcee at the Hutchinson commencement ceremony, with welcome and congratulatory remarks given by Dr. Craig Johnson, president, and Dawn Erlandson, Minnesota State Board trustee. The student address was given by Richard Kuttner. It was a special afternoon for him because he shared graduation honors with his daughter, Emily.

Victor Garcia was this year’s commencement speaker. He is a 2014 Ridgewater alumnus and graduate of the Blandin Foundation’s Community Leadership Program and the McLeod for Tomorrow leadership program. He owns and operates Victor’s PC Solutions. He says the best part of his job is helping people overcome their fear of technology. He gives back to the community by volunteering at Glencoe’s annual community celebration and staying involved with Ridgewater College.

Fortunately Thursday’s graduation exercise took place in the afternoon, so there was no dodging severe thunderstorm warnings, which sent people in Hutchinson to their basements during the early evening hours.

— Kay Johnson