[custom-field name=”aside” cssclass=”right-aside”]At the college’s 172nd annual Commencement exercises on Sunday (May 12), Melanie Stolp ’13, in the Senior Class Address, brought up her feelings about Denison’s Big Red Buzzard prior to her start at Denison as a first-year student four years ago. “While many of my peers were attending schools represented by majestic wildcats or the feisty blue devil, I found a common response of laughter mixed with confusion when explaining that the school I would be attending is represented by the buzzard, a bird known for eating road kill and urinating on itself to deter predators,” she told the crowd of more than 5,000. “Of all bird options for a mascot,” said Stolp of Denison’s unofficial mascot, “how was the buzzard chosen over a majestic eagle, a big red cardinal, or even a phoenix?”
But during the next four years, Stolp found the connection and relayed it to her class at Commencement, encouraging her fellow graduates to embrace the buzzard and what it represents. It’s a vitally important part of the global ecosystem, she said, and it can adapt to new environments, from the tropics to the foothills, just as the class, armed with a liberal arts education will head out into the world to become vital parts of society and adapt to an increasingly global workplace.
“Just remember that greatness can be found anywhere, whether on a hill in Ohio, or even in a weird-looking bird,” she told her peers, “but it is up to each one of us to utilize the skills that we have to make this world a better place.”
It was a theme University President Dale Knobel reinforced as this year’s Commencement speaker. In his talk, “Critical Thinking—Critical Doing,” Knobel urged the graduates to continue being the critical thinkers they had learned to be at Denison and to engage in the process of acting on those thoughts, enriching their own lives as well as the lives of others.”I hope that Denison has, indeed, taught you to be critical thinkers,” said Knobel, “but I also hope that you have begun to assume the role of ‘critical doers,’ not stopping at figuring out what is wrong or unfinished, but continuing on to fix or finish the work.”
With that, Provost Bradley Bateman, who will leave Denison at the end of June to assume the presidency at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va., welcomed each of the 542 members of the Class of 2013 to the stage on the Fine Arts Quad to receive their degrees. Their families and friends—some draped in blankets to ward off the unusually chilly May temperatures—cheered them on, rang cow bells, and snapped photos.
Prior to the awarding of the degrees, Faculty Chair Andy Katz acknowledged retiring faculty members Todd Feil and Lyn Robertson for their years of service to the college. Professor Feil has taught in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department since 1982, and Associate Professor Robertson has been at Denison for 34 years, teaching in the Department of Education and serving as the director of the Alford Center for Service Learning.
Dale Knobel, who will retire at the end of June, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree as part of Denison’s longtime tradition of recognizing individuals who have distinguished themselves in the arts, letters, and public life.
“Dale Knobel’s passion for the liberal arts, for Denison’s mission, and for our students has been evident every day of his 15 years with us,” said Tom Hoaglin ’71, chair of the board of trustees. “As a result of Dale’s prodigious fundraising, Denison has been able to endow 17 additional professorships, lower the student/faculty ratio to 10:1 and increase opportunities for student research. Financial aid—both need-based and merit—increased dramatically during Dr. Knobel’s years at Denison, yielding a far more diverse, engaged and inspiring student population. Dale, you have served the college unselfishly and extraordinarily well. You have made Denison better. Your legacy will endure, and Denison will be grateful forever.”
When Knobel addressed the class for the final time, he quoted German composer Johannes Brahms: “Long live the academy. Long live the professors! Long live the professors! Long live each student. Long live all the students. May they always flourish! May they always flourish!”