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The last Doane College graduates: Zach Jensen ’16

The last Doane College graduates: Zach Jensen ’16

Zach Jensen, the last Crete campus graduate of Doane College, poses for a photo.

Zach Jensen ’16 worked hard for everything he got at Doane.

He’s not the only Doane grad who will tell you that getting through one of Professor of Business Dr. Les Manns’ courses is far from a cinch, and the former student-athlete is frank when he says he had some growing up to do when he came to college.

But if that’s what it took to become the proud new owner of two bachelors’ degrees and a financial advisor intern at Northwestern Mutual, he knows it was worth it.

“Knowing what I know through professors and being able to convey my knowledge and having more confidence in myself were all big things I got taught here,” said Zach, who graduated with degrees in business administration and economics. “That helped me through the interview process to get my internship.”

And yet, for as much work as he put in to get to this point, the thing Zach may well be best remembered for at Doane cost him very little.

For just $5, he entered the Office of Advancement’s contest for a special place in line during the Crete campus’s Commencement ceremonies May 8. As luck would have it, he won that distinction—and the historical significance that came with it.

On a Sunday afternoon, after 236 fellow undergraduates were called out, it was Zachary A. Jensen who was last in line, becoming the last Crete campus student to ever graduate from Doane College when he shook President Dr. Jacque Carter’s hand and received his diploma in Cassel Open Air Theater.

“It is very cool. It’s quite the honor,” Zach said last week, three days after graduating and two days after Doane officially changed its name to Doane University. “It’s kind of funny because it was random, but at the end of the day, it’s an honor because (Doane) has done a lot for me. Being the last one, I can say that forever.”

It was just the icing on the (graduation) cake. Zach would’ve been pleased to chip in $5 regardlesss because Doane proved to be exactly what he wanted and needed.

“I’m a small-town kid and I knew that I wanted to be in a smaller environment,” said Zach, who hails from nearby Friend and graduated from Exeter-Milligan High School. “I didn’t think right out of the gates after high school that I’d be able to handle big classrooms and big everything. I needed that small atmosphere.”

What he got at Doane was worth much more. Zach learned from business and economics faculty that he now counts as mentors, like Associate Professor of Economics Dr. Jennifer Bossard and Dr. Manns. As a pitcher for Doane’s baseball team, he developed relationships with players and Head Coach Jeremy Jorgensen during his four years as a Tiger.

The contest educated students on the importance of becoming Doane Alumni and giving back to their alma mater. So when 2016 graduates went to pick up their cap and gown before Commencement a few weeks ago, they had the opportunity to make a $5 donation to Doane and put their name in the running to be the last Doane College graduate.

"The ‘last graduate’ was President Carter's idea because of his passion for history," said Chief Development Officer Marty Fye. "He noted on a recent trip that he would be handing a student the very last diploma for Doane College. We took the idea as a fun way to also encourage the senior gift. Both colleges held a drawing and an individual got the honor to be Doane’s last graduate.”

While Zach was the last graduate in the afternoon ceremony, Alicia Cariotto ’16L was the final name called in the morning ceremony for Doane’s graduate and adult learner programs, now housed under the College of Education and College of Professional Studies.

Even though he knew it was coming, the pressure Zach felt before he walked on stage was unlike anything he’d experienced before—even more than coming out of the bullpen in the late innings for Tiger Baseball.

“Usually in baseball, you’re in the moment, but this was me just sitting there and waiting,” Zach said with a laugh. “Honestly, I was kind of nervous to begin with. I had a little stage fright. They kind of delayed it a little bit, and I knew all eyes were on me.”

But once he walked across the stage to shake Dr. Carter’s hand and pose for a few pictures, he wasn’t thinking that he was the last of thousands of Doane College alumni before him. He was thinking about the last four years—and Mother’s Day.

“It was an awesome experience. It was very cool to be the last one, but at the end of the day, I was super proud of the hard work I put in over the last few years to get those two degrees,” Zach said. “My parents were there and I couldn’t have thought of a better Mother’s Day gift. It was surreal at the moment.

"I wasn’t going to let the fact that I was the last Doane College graduate overshadow the hard work I put in.”