Graduates file into their seats in the standing-room-only Cardinal Dome Friday.

Dome fulfills part of its purpose as the Class of 2023 graduates indoors

Bob Foos

The Webb City Class of 2023 graduated in a planned-for but hoped-against location Friday, May 19 – in the Cardinal Dome.

Superintendent Tony Rossetti pointed out that this was the first time in the nine years since the dome has been completed that commencement had to be held there.

Ideally, commencement is under the stars in Cardinal Stadium. That’s where it was for decades, but it was sometimes a problem in stormy weather. As classes grew and the audiences grew, hot-sweaty Cardinal Gym was no longer an alternative.

The decision was made to hold commencements at Missouri Southern State University. But in 2011, that large gym was unavailable because it was being used to house tornado victims.

Since 2011, commencement for every class has been held in Cardinal Stadium.

As Rossetti put it, the class of 2023 will be remembered as the “inaugural class to graduate in the dome, which was built nine years ago for this purpose.”

The dome can shelter a lot of people in a tornado, but just a fraction of the number that can pack into the stadium.


Ticket holders form a line prior to finding a seat in the dome.

Band members squeeze into a floor-level entrance.

The backup plan is to limit the number of guests for each graduate that can be seated in the dome. Those without tickets could watch the ceremony on TVs streaming the event in the auditorium or even at home.

Principal Jeff Wilke praised Johnny Harding’s maintenance crew for being “ready to go” in the stadium or the dome Friday morning. At 11 a.m., the decision was made to hold it inside.

While congratulating the 303 graduates Wilke thanked their parents for “letting me be a part of these incredible students’ lives.”

He noted that one out of four members of the class graduated cum laude with honors. And 18 of those achieved a grade point average of at least 4.0 to graduate summa cum laude.

Students chosen to address their classmates were Evan Garrison, MacKenna Kelly and Truman Oaks.

Not wanting to reduce the number of seats available for graduates’ families, the band jammed into one of the floor entrances, and the voices of the choir came down out of view from the top of the stadium.