by Dale T. Knobel, University President
This is the 163rd Commencement of Denison University, and like all those before it, it is a celebration of a passage in life. "Passages" acknowledge the change that has and is occurring, and if our graduates sometimes find it hard to recognize all of the changes in themselves that have taken place since their arrival as first-year students in August 2000, the parents, family members, friends, and faculty who surround them today are surely aware of them.
It is important to note that Denison University has not stood still either during these four years, and maybe just a few highlights of the changes around them will encourage members of the Class of 2004 to reflect on the personal changes they, too, experienced. Since you arrived on campus, Class of 2004, fifteen hundred or so others with whom you shared this campus in the fall of 2000 have already graduated in the Classes of 2001, 2002, and 2003, and a like number have taken their places in the classes that follow you. While we are at any point in time a college of just a little over 2,000 students, you've actually crossed paths with more than 3,500 other Denison men and women during your years here.
Change has come to the faculty during your time at Denison, too. Not only have there been four years of retirements, including the three distinguished professors who we will recognize a little bit later this afternoon, but no fewer than 42 new professors have joined the Denison faculty since you arrived. Think about it; you have had learning experiences with professors who none matriculating at Denison after this year will enjoy. In turn, those students who come to campus this fall will begin to work with professors unknown to you. We will have seven new faculty colleagues in Granville by September. A college -- a strong and vibrant college -- is constantly experiencing renewal.
When you arrived on campus there were no apartments with kitchens for student living save in Stone Hall plus a few units in Taylor and the "Satellite" Houses. Sunsets A through C were suite-style without kitchens and D was under construction. By your sophomore year, there were enough apartments to house 60% of the senior class. Electronic classrooms were relatively rare; they're now commonplace. Full internet connections to every desk in every residence hall room had only been in place for a couple of years when you arrived; but for you the internet is ubiquitous and an increasing number of wireless buildings and zones dot the campus. You connect to the world through the "My Denison" internet portal and even vote for campus officers online. The Campus Common, flanked by the Morgan and Talbot buildings, was just a hole in the ground for some months following the spring of your first year. And the driving route from Beth Eden to the North Quad, before last fall, was behind Doane, Barney-Davis, and the library, out onto Granville's Burg Street, back onto campus behind Shorney Hall, and a sharp right turn behind the college cemetery.
Nor will the campus ossify after your departure and preserve itself unchanged as you evolve from student to alumnus. Remember those 7 incoming new faculty I mentioned? There'll be more after that! And, of course, there'll soon be the 600 or so members of the Class of 2008, men and women a little like you were in the fall of 2000 but different, too, members of a whole new student generation with their own character, tastes, and perspective (doesn't that make you feel a little old?). By the fall, Higley Hall will be reopened, renewed and refurbished as the home of the Economics and Communication Departments as well as of the Alford Center for Service and Service Learning and a new office for the First-Year Program. Faculty colleagues in Knapp Hall will be sorry to see their friends in econ and communication go -- a little -- before they spread out and take better advantage of the space made available. Smith residence hall will have undergone a thorough overhaul, and construction will be underway on two new apartment-style residence halls with 112 more student spaces. Though construction awaits the raising of additional funds, an architect has been identified for the complete renovation of Cleveland Hall, the studio art building, and because of our desire to be sensitive to the historic character of this structure, we have engaged Denison-educated architect Jack Beyer '54 of New York City, the celebrated restoration architect for Grand Central Station and Ellis Island.
But these are just roadmarks of the changes that have come to you. There are certainly more profound indicators of those changes in the collective accomplishments of the Class of 2004. You number 514 graduates in all and you will earn 515 degrees (Leia van Booven has earned both the B.A. and the B.S.). The Class graduates one set of twins (does that constitute one degree or two?), Ashley and Alexis Kerr. And it includes Ann Carra, originally of the Denison Class of 1973, who completed her degree this year, inspired, perhaps by her son, Andrew, Denison Class of 2002. The Class of 2004 will leave campus today with 4 Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, 71 Bachelor of Science degrees, and 439 Bachelor of Arts degrees.
The valedictorian of the class is Elizabeth Ehret, who has earned a B.S. in mathematics. But we're chocked full of salutatorians, the honor being shared by Allison Cartmel (B.A. in classical civilization and Latin), Anthony Fressola (B.S. in mathematics), and Jonathon Ellison (B.S. in biology). Actually, 123 of you have prospered so well in your studies that you are graduating with Latin honors -- the various notations of cum laude listed in your programs. And yesterday morning, I witnessed the induction of no fewer than 30 members of the Class into Phi Beta Kappa, the historic academic honor society, joining Elizabeth Ehret, who had the extraordinary honor of being inducted last year as a junior.
On Friday, I had the pleasure of joining Dr. Kent Maynard in the Huffman Hall Presidents' Room to recognize 52 graduates who stretched themselves intellectually by fulfilling the requirements of Denison's interdisciplinary Honors Program. And just a few weeks ago, 85 of you -- with, as is the case each year, great sights that I could hear in my office across the hall and through a couple of doors from the Provost's office where you submitted them -- completed senior honors projects, which are the result of sustained independent scholarship and close collaboration with professors.
Several of you have represented your classmates especially well by attracting national attention for your achievements. Anna Beck and Will Evans have both received prestigious Fulbright awards, Anna to conduct research in chemistry in Austria, and Will to teach English in the same country. Jessica Kilgore has also been awarded a Teaching Assistantship through the French Ministry of Education which she competed for through a branch of the Fulbright apparatus. Christy Rhodes has received a Rangel Fellowship in International Affairs, another nationally competitive award. Julie Hufnagel has earned a rare NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. She is joined by cross country teammates Vanessa Miller and Rebecca Metzler as Academic All-Americans. In fact, the entire men's and women's cross country squads were named NCAA Division III Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic Teams. Earlier this year, Patrick Rule was selected as a Central Ohio National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete.
As these last recognitions indicate, members of the Class of 2004 seized opportunities to challenge themselves out of the classroom as well as within. Many of today's graduates participated actively on one of the 28 committees of the Denison Community Association, providing this year alone more than 17,000 hours of documented off-campus service to Ohio communities and social service agencies. Ashlee Branam was singled out by the Granville Area Chamber of Commerce to receive the annual Kussmaul Award for distinguished service to the community for engagement with the Granville and Newark schools, the America Reads Program, the Humane Society, and the juvenile justice system -- among other things.
Just a few weeks ago, a wide range of campus organizations enlisted more than 650 students, including many members of the Class of 2004, to participate in Denison's second annual Relay for Life, raising a remarkable $55,000-plus to support the activities of the American Cancer Society. Today, giving visual presentation of the commitment of Denison students to preserving the quality of life worldwide are the green ribbons worn on many student and faculty gowns that have been distributed at the initiative of a student group -- H.O.P.E., "Help Our Planet Earth" -- which has given graduating seniors and other participants in these commencement exercises the opportunity to voluntarily affirm their intention to consider the social and environmental implications of the lives they lead.
On the strength of conference championships this spring in men's lacrosse, women's tennis, and women's outdoor track and second-place finishes in baseball and men's golf -- helping the college's teams achieve seven first-place finishes and 13 in the top three throughout the year in 22 varsity sports -- Denison is expected to earn an unmatched seventh consecutive North Coast Athletic Conference All-Sports Trophy. This year, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's swimming and diving, women's tennis, and golf all advanced to NCAA tournament play -- and baseball may still get a bid later today. Individual runners from men's and women's cross country and women's outdoor track also advanced in NCAA competition, and senior Lauren Gerlach is not here this afternoon because she is still alive in the individual competition of the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships.
Members of the Class of 2004 provided leadership to many of these accomplished teams. The list of All-Conference and All-Region selectees is too long to relate, but Julie Hufnagel was named a women's cross country All-American; Women's swimmers Stephanie Sabo and Chrissy Havach were All-American, too, as were men's swimmers Jade Sobek, Rob Lisy, and Brady Walker. Their successes in the classroom and in athletic competition owe much to outstanding Denison coaches who are committed to their students' academic and athletic achievement, including Professor Gregg Parini, North Coast Athletic Conference Men's and Women's Swimming Coach of the Year; Anne Gillie, Conference Women's Diving Coach of the Year; Peter Burling, Central Region Women's Tennis Coach of the Year; and Professor Pan Fanaritis, North Coast Conference Women's Indoor and Outdoor Track Coach of the Year and Great Lakes Region Indoor Women's Track Coach of the Year.
Many Denison students thrive upon the combination of academic challenge, performance in the arts, off-campus service, athletic activity, and campus leadership in different proportions appropriate to the individual. Some pursue these combinations, capped by superior academic achievement, with such remarkable results that they earn the acclaim of faculty, college staff, and fellow students alike. The exemplars of this are recognized as Denison President's Medalists. The Class of 2004 sports six honorees, who were formally recognized at the Academic Awards Convocation in April. Representing the highest levels of academic achievement and leadership at the college are graduates-in-waiting Melanie Cluss, Erin Copple, Jon Ellison, Nate Emmerson, Julie Hufnagel, and Vannessa Miller.
As a class, 2004, you have accomplished much at Denison -- much that builds in the rest of us an expectancy for your achievements in the years ahead of you. Those of us on the faculty and staff of the college and certainly you, yourselves, recognize that you do not come to this day of passage entirely on your own. Consequently, before we move on to the next events in this ceremony, I'd like us to recognize the large and very special group of people who have made this day possible. We honor them for their commitment and sacrifices and thank them for their sustained love and support. We also dedicate this day to the memory of those parents, family members, and friends whose loss during these college years inevitably makes commencement less complete for some of you. Members of the Class of 2004, would you please stand, turn toward your families and friends who are here to celebrate your achievement, and join me and the faculty in expressing our appreciation with our applause.