On May 11, two short days before Denison's Commencement weekend, Mother Nature tired of the flower-laden, sunshine-filled days of spring in Granville. Much like a stunning model who had dressed beautifully and smiled incessantly as long as she possibly could, she sent cool temperatures, gray skies and plenty of rain to our graduates and visiting families and friends, but was unable to dampen the spirits of the joyous group. Denison's 175th Anniversary Commencement and its accompanying events drew record crowds into the indoor venues. Julianne McCall, who presented the senior class address to the 6,000 Commencement attendees who crowded into the Mitchell Recreation and Fitness Center for the Sunday afternoon ceremony described it as "one of the happiest days of my life."
Senior Week festivities began on Tuesday, May 8, with an early evening outdoor reception at the home of President and Mrs. Dale Knobel, followed later by an outdoor sleepover at the intramural fields and wake-up breakfast in the morning. On Wednesday night, the graduates-to-be took part in a late-night bowling party from 11 p.m. until 4 a.m. and a Field Day on Thursday with a party at Lamson Lodge, complete with a band, games and a beer garden. Parents of a number of the international students arrived by mid-week and were seen strolling around campus with their graduating seniors. Crina Vasiliu's parents, aunt and sister came from Galati, Romania, to celebrate the special occasion, as did Ishani Banerji's family from Mumbai, India. Families and friends from countries as distant as Japan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka traveled to Granville to witness the special event.
Two Baccalaureate celebrations were held in Swasey Chapel on Saturday afternoon, with President Knobel and Provost David Anderson offering the gathering words and welcome. Director of Religious Life and University Chaplain Mark Orten presented the Baccalaureate address "Holy Imagination." The gathered sang hymns, and the Denison Chamber Singers presented the anthem, "How Can I Keep From Singing?," and concluded the celebration with John Rutter's "A Gaelic Blessing." Seven seniors presented readings and the traditional singing bowl, liturgical dances, spirit kites and percussionist accompaniment were part of the service. The Baccalaureate was designed to represent Denison's pluralistic community and also to be a celebration with a religious nature for the seniors who would receive their bachelor's degrees the next day.
Because of the cold, wet weather, Sunday's events took place in Denison's expansive Physical Education Center. On Sunday morning, students, parents and professors gathered at the Faculty Coffee in Livingston Gymnasium for a continental breakfast and the opportunity for a farewell visit together before the Commencement ceremony.
By noon, graduates began donning their black robes and mortar boards in alumni Memorial Field House as Associate Provost Keith Boone attempted to herd the 537 graduates into orderly lines for the procession into the nearby Mitchell Center.
Student members of Mortar Board wore gold tassels on their caps, while 124 graduates who had earned Latin academic honors, cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude, wore red, silver and gold shoulder cords, respectively.
President's Medalists Ishani Banerji, Julianne McCall, Kim Murley, Cora Walsh and Colleen Wirtz wore gold medals in recognition of Denison's most prestigious award for academic achievement and leadership. The 54 students who graduated as members of the Honors Program wore bronze medals.
Graduating seniors wended their way from Livingston into the Mitchell Center, greeted by a George Frideric Handel processional and their own "Class of 2006 Fanfare," written for them by Denison Assistant Professor of Music Ching-Chu Hu upon their arrival on campus four years prior. Students exchanged warm greetings with faculty members who lined the center aisle of Mitchell as the graduates-to-be marched down the center isle to their seats. After welcoming remarks from Board of Trustees member Sara Fritz '66 and President Knobel, seniors listened to Julianne McCall's senior class address, "The Denison Confidence: A Unique Passage," in which she told her classmates that the wealth of experience they had gained at Denison will enable them to "reach the greatest of heights." Class co-governors Richard Banahan and Aaron Rosenthal stepped to the podium to share the exciting news that the Class of 2006 had exceeded all other graduating classes with a participation level of 53 percent in contributions to their senior class gift.
President Knobel conferred an honorary doctor of humane letters degree on journalist and Denison alumnus Brad Tillson '66 who was presented by Denison classmate Sara Fritz '66. Associate Professor of Education Lyn Robertson '70 presented higher education scholar Sylvia Hurtado for her honorary doctorate of social sciences that was conferred by President Knobel. In her commencement address, "Preparing for a Diverse and Complex World," Professor Hurtado encouraged the members of the class to "dare to be the different voice and to embrace those different voices that might help them to reach better decisions for the good of their society."
Provost David Anderson then announced the name of each of the graduates of the Class of 2006 as they stepped forward and crossed the platform to receive their diplomas and congratulations from President Knobel. Of the 538 degrees awarded (Lindsay Bickel earned both a B.S. in biology and a B.A. in English), five were bachelor of fine arts, 80 were bachelor of science and 453 were bachelor of arts degrees. Class valedictorian was Mary Ann Miller, who earned a B.A. in English literature and international studies. Two seniors shared the salutatorian honors, Alex Lechler in physics and Anna Brawley in history.
President Knobel's "Charge to the Class" urged the graduates to, "Ask, throughout life, how does that other person feel?" The Class of 2006 and members of the audience then stood to sing Denison's alma mater, "To Denison," led by senior members of the Denison choirs. Upon completion of the spirited song, the faculty recessed, and Associate Provost Keith Boone released the class, at which point the newly minted Denison alumni tossed their mortar boards aloft and erupted with exuberance for their job well done.