Ohio Wesleyan University celebrated its 173rd commencement ceremony Saturday, with the Class of 2017 encouraged to use their liberal arts educations to become global problem-solvers.
“Today, we’ve seen the rise of inward-focused nationalist and populist movements from both the political right and the left,” said keynote speaker Andres Duarte, a 1965 Ohio Wesleyan alumnus and international business executive. “Those movements have arisen democratically, and they’re influencing the economic, political, and social world that you are entering. These are new challenges that will require action from your generation.”
Fortunately, Duarte told the graduates, “I know you all can do it.” Duarte is the founder and managing director of Caracas, Venezuela-based Duarte Vivas & Associates, C.A., an idea incubator and entrepreneurial engine for the region.
“During the past four years,” Duarte said, “your OWU Connection education has helped you connect theory with real-world practice in a global context. You have honed the ability to think conceptually, through interdisciplinary and intercultural reasoning. Now you stand on this great foundation of knowledge and experience – and you are ready to live up to the great obligation – to live up to the potential that resides in each of you.
“There is great need here and around the world for the kind of skills and the work that you have been prepared to do.”
In her remarks, Class President Lee LeBoeuf of Dayton, discussed the opportunities — and obligations — created by earning a college diploma.
“We have to keep learning,” LeBoeuf told her classmates. “We owe it not only to ourselves, but to all the people we have yet to meet but have the opportunity to influence. Only 6.7 percent of the world is college-educated – 6.7 percent. We are a minority and hold immense power by virtue of our education, and our work is just beginning. …
“The piece of paper we are receiving today isn’t validating how much we’ve learned, but rather assuring us we have the capacity to learn so much more,” she said.
“Graduating college is an achievement, and we should be proud, but it’s what we do next that matters – the choices we make, and the questions we ask,” concluded LeBoeuf, a psychology major and biology minor who has accepted a Teach for America position in Cleveland.”
President Rock Jones, Ph.D., also stressed the civic responsibilities of the new graduates – and his optimism for the positive impact they will have on the world.
“[Your] education is not just about you,” Jones said. “Rather, it is about the impact you will have on the world. … It is about your role as moral leaders in a global society. And so today, at a time when there is much distress in our world, I rise as an optimist. I rise as an optimist who sees in you the potential for a more just world, a more civil society, and a more protected planet.”
Ohio Wesleyan’s 173rd graduating class included 383 spring, summer, and fall graduates, with students from 20 countries, ranging from Afghanistan to Venezuela. Three graduates were recognized for achieving perfect 4.0 grade point averages: Eric Baughman of Springboro, Ohio; Christopher Brinich of Lakewood, Ohio; and Nicholas Norman of Cincinnati, Ohio.
During the Saturday afternoon ceremony, the University also honored four outstanding faculty members with special awards:
— Kim A. Lance, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, posthumously received the Daniel E. Anderson Campus and Community Conscience Award.
— Robert M. Olmstead, M.A., professor of English, received The Welch Award for Scholarly or Artistic Achievement.
— Christopher L. Fink, Ph.D., associate professor of health and human kinetics, received The Sherwood Dodge Shankland Award for Encouragement of Teachers.
— Bradley R. Trees, Ph.D., professor of physics and astronomy, received The Bishop Herbert Welch Meritorious Teaching Award.
In addition, retiring faculty member Karen H. Fryer, Ph.D., professor of geology, was presented with Ohio Wesleyan’s Adam Poe Medal in recognition of her 31 years of dedicated service to her students and her profession.
President Jones concluded the commencement ceremony with Ohio Wesleyan’s traditional benediction, encouraging OWU’s newest alumni to share their knowledge and compassion with a world in need.
“If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have found freedom, take it with you into the world,” Jones said. “If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have found peace, go and share it with others. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have found some portion of truth, go and seek it all the more. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have dreamed dreams, help one another, and those dreams may come true. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have known love, give some back to a bruised and hurting world.”
Ohio Wesleyan’s complete commencement ceremony will be archived online at www.owu.edu/stream. Learn more about the event at www.owu.edu/commencement.