A steady drizzle may have been falling outside the doors of the Mitchell Center, but indoors the atmosphere was anything but damp, as smiling graduates, beaming parents and delighted faculty and friends celebrated the graduation of the 513 members of the Denison class of 2012.
The ceremonies began with a rousing rendition of “Fanfare for the Class of 2012,” written especially for this class by Assistant Professor of Music HyeKyung Lee, followed by the ringing of the Denison bell by President Dale Knobel.
Denison Trustee Cynthia Ooten Booth, class of 1979, warmly welcomed the graduates and attendees to Denison’s 171st Commencement exercises. Noting that these students have turned the page to join the society of the alumni, she said, “We trust that you will realize your life dreams with great accomplishments and that you will serve your communities, your nation, and your world with distinction.”
President Knobel also welcomed the graduates and their guests. He reminded the class about the changes that had come to the campus during their four years, including the renovation of Cleveland Hall from a 1904 men’s gymnasium into the Bryant Arts Center, and the extensive renovation and expansion of the Ebaugh Laboratories. He promised that changes will continue, including the state-of-the-art aquatics center, due to open this fall and the addition of apartment-style accommodations at Chamberlin Lodge. Knobel assured the crowd that Denison won’t be exactly the same each time they return to the hill. “And I hope you wouldn’t want it any other way; it will be better!” Finally, he recognized the sad loss of class member Gus McCravey, who died last year while traveling in Spain and will be remembered by many friends.
A special guest attended this year’s graduation observance, John Churchill, the national secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Churchill recognized the centennial anniversary of Denison’s Theta of Ohio chapter of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honorary. Thirty-four graduating members of the class of 2012 were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa the day before gradation ceremonies.
Each year a member of the graduating class is invited to speak at the ceremonies. This year’s speaker, Nicholas “Nicco” Pandolfi of Pittsburgh was inspired by cartography, the science of drawing of maps. “For a map is as much a diagram of the cartographer’s inner geography as it is a representation of the contours of coastlines and mountains they encounter on their journey,” he said. In drawing your own map of the future, Pandolfi concluded, “Arm yourself with courage, compass and pen, and bring yourself unflinchingly to the table.”
Class co-governors Chris Black, of Chatham, N.J., and Mary Kate McCarthy of Rye, N.Y., then announced a senior class gift of $6,500 to the Denison Annual Fund.
Three retiring members of the faculty were recognized by faculty chair Linda Krumholz. “These dedicated and beloved educators have served the college for a collective total of 106 years,” she said, “All three have been awarded emeritus status by the Denison Board of Trustees, and their contributions to our community of learning will be deeply missed.” Professor Judy Cochran, of the Department of Modern Languages, has served the college for 28 years; Professor Charles “Charlie” O’Keefe, of the Department of Modern Languages, has given the college 37 years of service; and Professor Donald G. “Don” Schilling, of the Department of History, has retired after 41 years of service to Denison.
Denison has a long tradition of taking time at Commencement to honor men and women who have distinguished themselves in the arts, in letters, and in public life. This year’s candidate for Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, was a woman who has made life possible for children who have been infected with HIV. Dr. Ellen Gould Chadwick, a member of the Denison Class of 1975, was nominated by Julia Beyer Houpt, a fellow member of the Class of ’75 and vice president for institutional advancement for Denison. A doctor, professor and researcher in childhood infectious diseases, particularly HIV and AIDS, Chadwick serves as professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and associate chair for education in the Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Chadwick is also the associate director of the Section of Pediatric, Adolescent and Maternal HIV Infection at the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Following the presentation of her honorary degree, Chadwick delivered the Commencement address. Sharing many of the lessons she has learned throughout her life and career, she urged the class to “Spend your life doing what you love; continue to learn, and be an advocate for those without a voice,” While she noted that none of us are Superman or Wonder Woman, we can still find some way to give back. “Even small changes can add up to big ones in the aggregate,” she said. “Set your priorities, never forget your family and friends, and solve the problems that my generation hasn’t figured out. Make it count.”
Provost Bradley Bateman presented the class of 2012 with their degrees, beginning with the senior class co-governors and the presidents medalists; Meg Geartner from Dallas, Texas; Nicki Jimenez from Foxboro, Mass.; Steven Profitt from Carlsile, Ohio; and Jessica Wilson from Grand Rapids, Mich. In total, there were seven Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, 88 Bachelor of Science degrees and 418 Bachelor of Arts degrees awarded. Among the graduates, 101 earned Latin honors: 45 cum laude, 39 magna cum laude, and 17 summa cum laude. The co-valedictorians, with perfect 4.0 cumulative grade points averages, were Karen Watts of Delaware, Ohio, and Courtney Yong of Richmond, Calif.
Led by senior members of four Denison a cappella groups — the Hilltoppers, Ladies Night Out, Tehillah and DU-Wop — the ceremony drew to a close with the singing of the college’s alma mater, “To Denison.”
President Knobel addressed the class of 2012 for the final time with a special charge. Speaking about life on campus versus off, he said, “I have news for you. Different though it may be in some ways, in many of its fundamental characteristics, in and out of the classroom, college life is ‘real life’ — both the good and the challenging.” He concluded. “Take your life experiences and your learning from Denison years not as an interlude, but as a beginning to a life of learning with, from, and about a worldwide community of people whose lives you can enrich, and who will enrich yours.” He added, “Neither living nor learning is a solitary act.”
The Class of 2012 ended the ceremonies with the time-honored tradition of tossing their mortar boards at the invitation and encouragement of Associate Provost Toni King.
Play the audio file below to hear the “Fanfare for the Class of 2012,” composed by Assistant Professor of Music HyeKyung Lee, performed live at the Commencement ceremony.