The last time it happened was in 2003, when Chantelle Anderson and Ashley McElhiney completed their historic careers. This year it happened again, so seniors Amy Malo, Jen Risper, and Tina Wirth joined the select group of basketball players who celebrate graduation on the same court where they spent so many hours during their four years as undergraduates.Follow @wbbVandyMania
The day began in the Hendrix Room in the McGugin Center, where all the student- athletes have eaten many meals at the training table over the past four years. This morning is different, because their families join them for breakfast.
Head Coach Melanie Balcomb and her staff arranged their schedules to have one last chance to visit with the graduates and their families .
Jen Risper's family made the long trip from California to celebrate the special day.
Amy Malo's parents, Brad and Janet, made the trip from Fairmont, Minnesota.
After breakfast, the families split up, with the parents going to the gym to find seats for the ceremony, while the student-athletes have other responsibilities. But before everybody goes their separate ways, there's a little time for photos.
Coach Balcomb posed for photos with the seniors, Amy, Jen, and Tina. (Click the photo to view a larger image.)
Next stop for the graduates is just down the street at the Studio Arts Center across from Hawkins Field. Every year, the graduating student-athletes pose for a photo with the Chancellor before the ceremony begins.
Christy Hogan, one of the academic counselors, helps to organize the photo shoot. She also has been the academic counselor for the women's basketball team since Jen, Tina and Amy were freshman.
Usually the photo takes place on the steps of Kirkland Hall, but since the Commencement ceremony was moved to Memorial Gym, a more convenient location was needed. The Chancellor has a busy schedule, so the student-athletes lined up on the steps and awaited his arrival.
Finally Vice Chancellor David Williams, who oversees the athletics program, and Chancellor Nick Zeppos arrive and join in the group photo.
Although thunderstorms awakened many Nashvillians early in the morning and forced the decision to move the Commencement ceremony to Memorial Gym, a break in the weather meant that caps and gowns would stay dry as the graduates walked over to the gym.
The basketball players have spent countless hours in Memorial Gym over the past four years, but on Friday, they entered it for the last time as Vanderbilt undergraduates.
Inside the gym, the candidates for bachelors' degrees sit on the court of the gym. Graduate and professional students are seated in the bleachers behind the home benches, and families and friends are seated everywhere else. (Click photo to view a larger image.)
During the ceremony, the basketball graduates might have looked up to see some of the banners they've helped to hang in the rafters. There will be two more banners to commemorate their senior season, one for the 2009 SEC Tournament Championship and one for another appearance in the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
The balconies in the basketball offices provide a convenient view point for the basketball staff.
The stage is set up on the visitors' end of the court. After the en masse conferring of the degrees, the candidates for graduate and professional degrees leave the gym to receive their diplomas in separate ceremonies held by each of the colleges at various locations around campus. The undergraduates remain in the gym to walk across the stage one-by-one to receive their diplomas.
Near to the spot where she waited to check into many basketball games, Jen Risper joins her fellow graduates in the line to the stage.
With their degrees in hand, the new graduates are ready to move on to life's next adventure. For Amy, that means graduate school, right here at Vanderbilt, where she'll complete a master's degree next year in the Human and Organizational Development at Peabody. Jen and Tina were both selected in the WNBA draft last month and will leave next week for training camps, Jen to Chicago and Tina to Indianapolis, and look forward to playing overseas next winter.
Photos copyright 2009 by Whitney D for VandyMania.com