Alberto Bruzon ’24 is a veteran of the Navy who completed his Bachelor of General Studies degree through Columbia College’s Naval Air Station Jacksonville (Fla.) location and the Online Program. He donned a special military stole provided by an anonymous donor to veterans and active-duty service members at Spring 2024 Commencement. Photo by Kaci Smart ’09

An anonymous alumnus helped make Columbia College’s Spring 2024 Commencement ceremonies extra meaningful for veterans and active-duty service members earning their degrees.

Thanks to a special gift in recognition of the college’s strong commitment and enduring partnership with the U.S. Armed Forces, students who have served our country received military stoles to wear over their graduation gowns on April 27 at the Southwell Complex in Columbia, Missouri.

“Seeing the other veterans here shows that we are not alone,” said Alberto Bruzon ’24, a veteran of the Navy who completed his Bachelor of General Studies degree through the college’s Naval Air Station Jacksonville (Fla.) location and the Online Program. “I am very grateful for the anonymous donor.”

“Seeing the other veterans here shows that we are not alone. I am very grateful for the anonymous donor.”

Alberto Bruzon ’24 on receiving a military stole

Bruzon traveled via connecting flights from Norfolk, Virginia, to Missouri to celebrate Commencement with his family in Columbia.

“We are out here post-Navy service, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, you name it,” Bruzon said of his fellow military-affiliated graduates. “We’re doing it. We’re getting our education. We’re integrating into society. We’re becoming productive citizens. And it helps those that are in the military now see that there is a clear path to the civilian world.”

The military stoles featured the college’s colors of navy and silver, with red, white and blue stripes to honor service members’ great sacrifice to our nation.

“When I checked in and I saw the veterans’ stoles and received one, I did not know that an anonymous donor had provided them,” said Kate Martin ’24, an Army veteran who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree. “I’m very grateful for that. Our veterans, especially the young people that I saw today, they have given a lot. No matter what your service is, there was a cost to you for that.

“For somebody to pass a gift along to the veterans who graduated today means a lot. And I’m proud to be a veteran. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of in my life.”

For Janae Fulsom ‘24, an Air Force veteran who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Human Services, her stole represented opportunity – both to serve her country and further her education.

“To add this stole to my regalia today, it really was a reminder of that doorway that was opened for me,” Fulsom said. “Today, not only am I a veteran of the United States Air Force, but I am also the only female of my lineage who has graduated from an undergraduate program and pursued further education.”

The creative gift of the stoles is an example of the various ways to enhance students’ experience at Columbia College, removing barriers as they improve their lives and helping them achieve and celebrate success along their academic journeys.