Rebecca Fredrick, right, poses for a photo with Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Rhodes Russell after Russell presented Fredrick with her diploma during Columbia College’s Spring 2024 Commencement on Saturday, April 27, at the Southwell Complex. Fredrick has worked as Judge Russell’s executive assistant for nearly 10 years. Photo by Kaci Smart ’09

Rebecca Fredrick realized a goal at Columbia College’s Spring 2024 Commencement that was nine years – or really a lifetime – in the making.

There by Fredrick’s side: her boss, the chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.

The Honorable Mary Rhodes Russell presented Fredrick, her longtime executive assistant, with the diploma for her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree. The moment culminated a journey that Fredrick began in 2015, when she first enrolled in the CC Online Program.

The two shared an embrace on stage in front of a capacity crowd of more than 2,000 at the Southwell Complex on Saturday, April 27, during the first of two graduation ceremonies on main campus.

“It’s just the icing on the cake,” Fredrick said of Chief Justice Russell presenting her diploma.

Fredrick, of Hermann, Missouri, was one of more than 340 graduates from 11 different countries who walked across the stage to cheers and applause from family and friends who filled the gymnasium. The morning ceremony celebrated graduates of the Robert W. Plaster School of Business and School of Public Service, while the afternoon ceremony featured the School and Arts & Sciences.

Members of the Columbia College Class of 2024 look on during a capacity-crowd Commencement ceremony on Saturday, April 27, at the Southwell Complex. Photo by Kaci Smart ’09

Fredrick has worked for Chief Justice Russell for nearly 10 years at the Missouri Supreme Court in Jefferson City, where she makes an hourlong commute from her home. She previously worked in the Missouri Attorney General’s Office for 13 years.

“(Judge Russell) is an amazing boss, of course an amazing judge,” she said. “Very well-respected and so genuine. She is also a friend and huge supporter and mentor. She has always been right there cheering me on. It just completes this whole journey by having her here with me.”

Fredrick earned an associate degree after high school, but her goal of a bachelor’s degree was put on hold by the demands of working full-time and raising her two children, Brody and Morgan.

While earning a bachelor’s is not a requirement for her position at the state Supreme Court, continuing her education is an endeavor she valued on a personal level.

She methodically took eight-week courses one at a time while balancing family, work and school.

“I’m so proud of Becky’s perseverance, focus and determination,” Judge Russell said. “We’ve been through the ups and downs, and it’s amazing to see her accomplish this goal and dream of hers. I just so appreciate all that she does for me and the court and everyone around her.

“She is an inspiration.”

“I’m so proud of Becky’s perseverance, focus and determination. We’ve been through the ups and downs, and it’s amazing to see her accomplish this goal and dream of hers. I just so appreciate all that she does for me and the court and everyone around her. She is an inspiration.”

Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Rhodes Russell on Rebecca Fredrick

Fredrick says she enjoyed the flexibility and affordability of the Online Program and the many professors from whom she learned.

“Columbia College is very accommodating with those of us who work full-time and only have our evenings or weekends to take classes,” she said.

Fredrick hopes that her graduation sets an example for her family and shows others in similar life situations that they can pursue and achieve their dreams – even if it is slowly but surely.

“I have always wanted for myself just to have my bachelor’s degree and achieve that goal,” Fredrick said. “I feel like, as I tell my kids, ‘One can never have enough knowledge, and age should not define who you are.’ Earning your degree will not happen overnight and it may not happen in just a few years, but in the end, once you finish, it’s the best feeling in the world.

“Just joy and excitement and a huge sense of accomplishment.”

Karalynn Fisher continues her mom’s CC legacy

Karalynn Fisher addresses the Class of 2024 during her student address in the afternoon Commencement ceremony on Saturday, April 27, at the Southwell Complex. Photo by Kaci Smart ’09

Karalynn Fisher remembers as a child watching her mother, Kris Redell ’16, stay up late to study.

Redell completed her bachelor’s degree from the Online Program while working multiple jobs and raising three children.

“Without her, I wouldn’t have a story to tell,” Fisher said of her mom during her student address at the afternoon ceremony. “Everything she has ever done has been for the betterment of mine and my siblings’ lives, including going to Columbia College.”

Fisher, a Day Program student, received a full-ride Presidential Scholarship to Columbia College after graduating from high school in greater St. Louis. On Saturday, she was honored with the Presidential Award in recognition of her 4.0 grade-point average while completing her bachelor’s degree.

As president and captain of the Mock Trial Team, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, with minors in Legal Studies, Sociology and Honors.

“It’s everything. It’s more than I could have ever dreamed for her,” Redell said of her daughter’s success. “We are so proud of her.”

“It’s everything. It’s more than I could have ever dreamed for her. We are so proud of her.”

Kris Redell ’16 on the success of her daughter Karalynn Fisher

Fisher said Columbia College has given her the knowledge and confidence to pursue her dream of becoming a divorce and family attorney. Before that, she plans to spend a year teaching high school English in Honduras.

Many people view graduation as a bittersweet ending, but the celebration is simply the beginning for the Class of 2024, Fisher told her fellow graduates.

“As we start our journeys out into the world, we can rest easy knowing that we got the best education with all of the support from remarkable faculty and staff at Columbia College,” Fisher said. “We will take everything that we’ve learned to change the world for the better.”

Patrice Suplicki shares power of perseverance

Patrice Suplicki addresses the Class of 2024 during her student address in the morning Commencement ceremony on Saturday, April 27, at the Southwell Complex. Photo by Kaci Smart ’09

Patrice Suplicki, of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, flew to Missouri from her home state to graduate with her Master of Business Administration from the Online Program.

Another purpose of the trip was to share an inspirational message with the Class of 2024 at the morning ceremony.

“Be proud of how far you have come and don’t be afraid of how far you have to go,” Suplicki said. “For sometimes the journey really is greater than the destination, and what a journey we have gone on here at Columbia College.”

“Sometimes the journey really is greater than the destination, and what a journey we have gone on here at Columbia College.”

Patrice Suplicki in her student address

Suplicki has worked as an engineer at The Boeing Company, Oshkosh Corporation, Kohler Company and Sartori Cheese, where she most recently served as an associate brand manager.

She underwent and recovered from multiple surgeries for both Crohn’s Disease and Endometriosis while still succeeding in her coursework over the past two years. Despite those challenges, she earned a 4.0 GPA during her graduate career at CC.

She wants to be a motivational speaker for those who have faced traumas and setbacks in their lives.

“Choosing to persevere when being tested isn’t something I can put on a shelf to admire or even write down on a list of accomplishments,” she said. “But I know that choosing to continue instead of giving up has led me to being up here in front of you all today.”

President Russell, Provost Hamar congratulate grads

Graduate Alejandra Alderete-Raygoza hugs Dr. Mary Miller, assistant professor of Education, after the morning ceremony at Columbia College’s Spring 2024 Commencement on Saturday, April 27. Photo by Kaci Smart ’09

Columbia College President Dr. David Russell encouraged graduates that they are not the same people as when they originally enrolled at Columbia College.

“You have grown personally, academically and soon will blossom professionally,” Russell said in his address at both ceremonies.

Russell encouraged graduates to seize the moment when it comes and to use their talents and experience to lead with compassion and courage.

“Don’t forget that your Columbia College family is here for you, and your connection to this 173-year-old institution will stand the test of time,” Russell said.

Provost Dr. Sandra Hamar said the Class of 2024’s hard work and determination have paid off.

“Today is your day to shine in front of family members, friends and supporters,” Hamar said. “Your strength, tenacity and focus are remarkable, and you should be very proud of this accomplishment.”

Saturday’s Commencement ceremonies included special music from the Jane Froman Singers and a welcome to the Columbia College Alumni Association from Nikki Carter ’00 and Beckie Brietzke ’13.

The weekend began with the institution’s long-standing Ivy Chain Ceremony on Friday in Dorsey Gym. Graduates draped symbolic ivy chains over their shoulders, representing their connection to the college and their fellow graduates.

On Friday evening, 39 nursing graduates received their pins during the Nurses’ Pinning Ceremony in Launer Auditorium.

That energy carried over to Saturday in Southwell, with a full house and full hearts.