Simmons Traditions: Candle Lighting Ceremony
It always felt like a major honor to be able to spend those special and sacred moments with the students and to welcome them into their Simmons milestones like that.
— Lisa J.B. Peterson '03
As first-years gathered on campus for the very first time, the new students also embarked on their Simmons journey with a symbolic tradition: the Candle Lighting Ceremony. What began as an event to relax after the stress of saying goodbye to loved ones has transformed into a moment of reflection on the meaningfulness of the occasion.
“For me, the significance of the Candle Lighting is that it’s an opportunity for brand new students who don't yet know each other, to come together on their first night,” says Lisa J.B. Peterson '03, Past-President of the Alumnae/i Association. "There are so many nerves at that time… This is a chance for them to pause, reflect, look around and say, together, ‘We did it! We made it here, and now the future begins!’”
In the past few years, the Candle Lighting Ceremony has been a collaborative event between the Simmons Alumnae/i Association and the Office of Student Life. Its purpose is for alums to welcome new students to Simmons, as they understand exactly what first-years are experiencing. While the Simmons community is diverse, the exciting and intimidating experience of coming to this historic institution is a moment they all share.
“When I attend the ceremony, I look in the faces of the students and cannot help but reflect on my own Move-in Day and the emotional roller coaster that goes along with the start of this new chapter,” says Theresa Brewer ’78, Co-President of the Simmons Alumnae/i Association. “It is a great opportunity to build the bridge between those who are starting their journey and those of us who have completed it.”
It is a great opportunity to build the bridge between those who are starting their journey and those of us who have completed it.
The Alumnae/i Association and the Office of Student Life worked hard to ensure this tradition continues, even in the uncertainty of the pandemic. Peterson spoke to the Class of 2024 at their virtual Candle Lighting Ceremony last summer, using a candlelit background and a candle from her home to mark the occasion. “It definitely paints the picture of what we’re all living through in these strange days,” she says.
Similarly, alumna Lynne Devnew ‘67, Co-President of the Simmons Alumnae/i Association, took part in an additional Candle Lighting Ceremony for the Class of 2020 when they returned to campus before virtual Commencement. She enjoyed the opportunity to wrap up the students’ time at Simmons and “complete the cycle” — even when the weather didn’t cooperate.
“I heard this year’s Ceremony was on a calm fall day, and the candles stayed lit,” says Devnew. “That was NOT the case in May. I can't begin to tell you how many times we relit each candle! It became fun and silly.”
Peterson also enjoys the opportunity to “complete the cycle” and welcome these students to the Alumnae/i Association four years later at Commencement, when the graduating students symbolically exchange their class banner for the Alumnae/i Association banner.
“It always felt like a major honor to be able to spend those special and sacred moments with the students and to welcome them into their Simmons milestones like that,” says Peterson.
Additionally, this is a time for alums to encourage new students to strive for excellence. The strong network of Simmons alumnae/i collectively reaffirms their commitment to supporting students on the pathway to successful academic experiences and beyond.
Brewer describes it as “a time to plant the seed that one day they, too, will grow and blossom and open up like a flower in the sun. The candle represents the light we all have inside of us... the light in me sees the light in you as we help each other connect our lights (lighting of each other's candle). The language of empathy is universal, and it speaks from heart to heart. That is a priceless gift!”