Seymour graduates among Top Ten Seniors at Franklin College

Taking one last lap around campus, Michael Knecht and Abigail Davis reflected on all they had been a part of and accomplished at Franklin College.

Both were members of the Student Entertainment Board and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship with Davis serving as president of each for two years. Both were resident hall assistants for three years. Both studied education.

Knecht also played baseball for three years, and Davis was in the string ensemble for three and a half years.

Recently, they were chosen by their peers, faculty and staff as Top Ten Seniors, and they both graduated, Knecht earning cum laude honors.

“We were saying how when we first went to Franklin, we never planned to be involved and known on campus, but by the end of it, we got this award and everything, and we really felt a part of the college in our own way, kind of made our own story and been a part of things,” Knecht said. “Looking back, I don’t think that we really thought we would have been involved in so much.”

Being among the Top Ten Seniors came during the annual Student Involvement Awards ceremony April 27.

The recipients are chosen based on their academic excellence (a minimum of 3.0 grade point average); leadership on campus, both inside and outside the classroom; and their embodiment of Franklin College values. Due to a tie, the awards were presented to 12 outstanding seniors this year.

Initially, Knecht and Davis, both 22, received an email letting them know they made the top 25. Then students, faculty and staff voted to determine the award recipients.

Davis said she didn’t know there was a Top Ten Seniors award before she received the email.

“I was certainly not expecting it, and then when we were at the awards, going into it, I was like, ‘Well, there are so many wonderful people that were nominated and so many well-deserving people that were nominated,’ so I was absolutely not expecting to be chosen,” Davis said. “But I was really excited to be. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

It meant a lot to Knecht, too.

“It was a great feeling just because in high school, I did well with my academics, but I had my parents sometimes saying, ‘Come on. You’ve got to get this grade up’ or stuff like this, but in college, it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s just you,” he said. “It felt very rewarding to receive top 10 because there were a lot of late nights in the library writing history papers, which are many pages. It was a good feeling to receive that.”

Graduation was May 21. Knecht earned a degree in history with a secondary education endorsement, and Davis received a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education.

They were engaged in September 2021 and will wed July 9 at Calvary Baptist Church in Seymour. They have been together for six years.

That started when they were students at Seymour High School. They graduated from there in 2018 and then chose the same college.

While she knew she wanted to go to a smaller school close to home, Davis said she chose Franklin due to its string ensemble program because it would give her a chance to continue playing the violin, which she started in first grade.

She was in marching band, orchestra and color guard at SHS, and the ensemble at Franklin consisted of six people. She took private lessons twice a week and also was in a string ensemble class, and the ensemble performed in at least two programs per semester.

“It was really cool to be a part of something that was solely string-based,” Davis said.

Knecht also was drawn to the small campus and small classrooms.

“After that first class, I was like, ‘OK, you can get from one side of campus to the other in 5 minutes,’ so I was all about that,” he said. “Then plus, having the one-on-one experience with professors that you wouldn’t get at a bigger university was really great for me.”

Continuing his baseball career was a big part of it, too, he said.

“I had some offers from other schools, but Franklin, I wanted to go there for my education first, and then baseball kind of came second,” he said. “I was set on Franklin pretty much right from the beginning.”

As members of the Student Entertainment Board, Knecht and Davis helped set up small and large events on campus, about two each month.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic impacted one of her years as president, Davis said they were able to come up with events that were safe for everyone involved.

A big event was the welcome bash for freshmen and new students, complete with bounce houses, food trucks and more.

“A team of exec members and a very helpful adviser guided me through that,” Davis said. “It was really awesome to experience that and to be able to experience something like that so young. It was kind of like you’re a party planner.”

Davis said she learned about InterVarsity during an engagement fair on campus.

“I knew I wanted to be involved in a Christian organization like I was (at SHS), and so I knew I wanted to get my feet into that,” she said. “I was just a general member of InterVarsity. I would just go on Wednesday nights casually, and then I started being a little bit more interested and became a leader. Then I became the president of the organization.”

In that role, she led a leadership team that planned small and large group meetings. She was a member all four years at Franklin, while Knecht was involved for a year and a half.

As resident hall assistants, they were in charge of a dormitory, helped set up events and built a community in the building. As a bonus, they got their room and board paid for and had their own rooms.

Studying education at Franklin, Knecht and Davis both had to student teach during their final semester. Knecht was at Center Grove Middle School North in Greenwood, and Davis was at Creekside Elementary School in Franklin.

Going into that, Knecht had spent less than a month at Shelbyville High School his sophomore year and was a substitute teacher a few times in Seymour, so he said it was a big difference having to create his own lessons and run a classroom.

“Luckily, I had a great cooperating teacher that basically said, ‘For the most part, you’re kind of acting while you’re teaching, and you have to be entertaining and kind of be an actor sometimes to get students involved with your lessons,’” Knecht said. “That changed my view on teaching because I knew the content and I knew what I was talking about, but it was ‘How do I make seventh-graders enjoy World War II and actually understand what it means to them?’”

Davis, on the other hand, had been in a classroom at least once a semester since she was an elementary education major, and she also had a job in a preschool classroom.

“I think my classes really prepared me,” Davis said. “Especially starting junior year is when we really started our education courses, and we had the same rotation of education professors, and I adored them. They really worked hard to advocate for us and made sure we knew our content and knew what we were going in for, and then they were even there for us in our field experience.”

Knecht and Davis both said those experiences give them confidence as they have their own classrooms in August.

Knecht will be a social studies teacher and an outfield coach for the baseball team at his alma mater, SHS.

“It will be interesting working alongside the teachers that I had and kind of having a different relationship with them, but I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

Davis will be a first grade teacher at Seymour-Jackson Elementary School. She originally interviewed for a third and fourth grade position, but the school later called her back and offered her the first grade job.

“I prefer younger grades, but I was not going to turn anything down,” she said. “It was perfect how everything worked out.”

Davis’ sister, Elizabeth, also graduated from college this year, and she will be a fifth grade teacher at Emerson Elementary School in the fall, and she helps coach soccer and tennis. One of their older brothers, Brandon Davis, is a teacher at the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center along with his wife, and he is the boys tennis head coach at SHS. Their other brother, Adam Davis, is in the U.S. Army, but his wife is a teacher.

Knecht and Davis are spending this summer getting their classrooms ready for their first school year as teachers.

“To me, I think it’s pretty much the American dream being able to come back to your hometown and do what you want,” Knecht said. “I hope to almost restore that in a way and build a culture here in our community. I hope that my students and younger students can see that you make a difference in your community and come back and raise a family. That’s what it’s all about.”

For Davis, life is all about having positive experiences and being willing to take on challenges and new journeys.

“I’ve learned so much at Franklin and all of the organizations I was a part of,” she said. “Even if you don’t love that organization or love that club or love that class, there’s always something that you can learn from it and just be able to apply that. There are so many things I learned at Franklin because I decided to try something new that I can apply to my teaching experience.”