by Dale Knobel, University President
B.A. Yale University; Ph.D. Northwestern University
This is the 165th Commencement of Denison University, but, members of the Class of 2006, you are graduating in the college's 175th year since its founding in 1831 — our Septaquintaquinquecentennial. Your 25th Reunion in Granville will take place in Denison's 200th year. In recognition of that, many of you have contributed your thoughts and memorabilia to a time capsule that has been sealed and will be reopened when you arrive back on campus in 2031. I can't promise I'll be here when you open it — but I'd sure like to try!
In these last 175 years, Denison has evolved from a frontier academy to a leading undergraduate arts and sciences college with a national reputation. It hasn't stood still during the last four years, either, and maybe just a few highlights of the changes around you will encourage you as about-to-be graduates to reflect upon the personal evolution you have experienced since you arrived here from high school. Since you appeared on campus, Class of 2006, 1,500 or so others with whom you shared this campus in the fall of 2002 have already graduated and a like number have taken their places in the classes that follow you. While at any point in time we are a college of 2,100 or so, you've actually crossed paths with, learned with and from, and made friends among more than 3,500 Denison men and women during your four years here, and your sense of comradeship will grow as you become reacquainted with them at reunions and at regional alumni activities in years to come.
Change has come to the faculty during your time at Denison, too. Not only have there been four years of retirements of accomplished senior professors, but 40 new professors have joined the permanent Denison faculty since you arrived, bringing their own skills and energies to the classroom, laboratory, and studio. A strong and forward-looking college is always experiencing renewal.
Although you may have forgotten it, when you arrived on campus, apartments with kitchens for student living were still a new thing at Denison, save for a small number of older units in Stone Hall, Taylor House, and the "satellite" houses. Sunsets A through C had only recently been converted from their original suite style without kitchens to full apartments and Sunset D newly constructed only the year before. Growing student interest in this kind of living persuaded the Board of Trustees to authorize the construction of two more apartment-style halls, currently called Elm and Maple, which opened just in time for your senior year. Access to the Internet, already available in each residence hall room and in computer labs and clusters throughout the campus when you arrived, became increasingly ubiquitous during your four years, as more and more classrooms became so-called "electronic" classrooms and wireless nodes began to sprout up in buildings from Samson Talbot to the Slayter snack bar. In the next few months, the entire campus — inside and out — will go wireless. When you come back for Homecoming in the fall, bring your laptops! When you arrived, the Campus Common, flanked by the Morgan and Talbot buildings, was just a busy and sometimes inconvenient construction site. By early in your sophomore year, the Common complex had become integral to campus life.
Nor will the campus freeze itself in time after your departure today and preserve itself unchanged as you evolve from student to alumnus. Half a dozen new tenure track professors will join us in the fall. And soon, of course, there'll be 575 members of the Class of 2010, men and women a little like you were in the fall of 2002, but different, too, already part of a whole new student generation with their own character, tastes, and perspectives. By fall, another round of classroom, office, and laboratory renovations will be completed in Knapp Hall (you may have noticed the scaffolding that went up within 24 hours of the completion of exams), as well as improvements to Fellows Hall and a number of residence halls. Because of the generous gift from Don Bryant '64, and Pete and Joy Alpaugh '44 and '45, the college will commence late next spring on the complete renovation and expansion of the studio arts facilities in Cleveland Hall. The renewed and enlarged structure, the Bryant Arts Center at Cleveland Hall, should open for classes in the fall of 2008. Improvements to the softball-baseball complex were largely completed during the spring season, and Deeds Field and Track in Piper Stadium will be renovated during the summer for use in the autumn. No, Denison won't be exactly the same each time you return to the hill. And you wouldn't want it any other way: it will be better!
But these are just road markers of the changes that have come to you as women and men. There are certainly more profound indicators of those changes in the collective accomplishments of the Class of 2006. In all, you number 537 graduates and you will earn 538 degrees (one of you, Lindsay Bickel, is earning both a B.S. in biology and a B.A. in English). Collectively, you will leave campus today with five Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, 80 Bachelor of Science Degrees, and 453 Bachelor of Arts degrees. And if, in a little while you think that you are seeing or hearing double, I should warn you that the class contains three sets of twins, the Henderson and Plowgian brothers and the Martin sisters.
The valeditorian of the class is Mary Ann Miller, who has earned a B.A. in English literature and international Ssudies. But we have two Salutatorians, the honor being shared by Alex Lechler, who earned a degree in physics, and Anna Brawley with a B.A. in history. Actually, 124 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 program and recognized by different color shoulder cords on each recipient's gown. And yesterday, I participated in the induction of no fewer than thirty-three members of the Class into Phil Beta Kappa, the historic academic honor society, joining classmates Sarah Broderick and Mary Ann Miller, who had the extraordinary honor of being inducted last year as juniors.
On Friday, I had the pleasure of joining Dr. Kent Maynard and other faculty colleagues at a ceremony to recognize 54 graduates who stretched themselves intellectually by fulfilling the requirements of Denison's interdisciplinary Honors Program. And just a few weeks ago, 89 of you submitted completed senior honors projects, which are the result of sustained independent scholarship and close collaboration with a faculty mentor.
Several of you have represented your classmates especially well by attracting national attention for your achievements. As a junior, Cora Walsh earned a rare Truman Scholarship, an award created by Congress for just a few top students aiming for careers in public service. Kim Murley has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, another highly-coveted award. Julianne McCall, who designed her own major in neuroscience at Denison, will spend next year at the University of Lund in Sweden researching the signaling pathways that regulate retinal degeneration under the auspices of an international Fulbright Research Fellowship. Curtis Plowgian has just learned that he has earned a Fulbright Teaching award that will support a year as an instructor of English in Nantes, France. And Ross Rikkers will hold the same Fulbright teaching award for Austria, a post he will actually take up after fulfilling an internship for outstanding young North American professionals with one of the German state parliaments. And Colleen Wirtz has been awarded Denison's 39th NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, helping keep Denison near the top of all colleges and universities nationwide in the graduation of remarkable scholar-athletes. I couldn't help but notice that 14 national and regional "all-academic" awards were given to men and women participating on Denison varsity teams, including national team academic awards for women's soccer and cross country.
As these last recognitions indicate, members of the Class of 2006 seized opportunities to challenge themselves both in an out of the classroom. Many of today's graduates participated actively on one of the 29 service committees of the Denison Community Association (the DCA) or in the America Reads program, providing this year alone more than 25,000 hours of documented service to Central Ohio schools, communities, and social service agencies. Jessica Smith, Chair of the DCA Committee for New Beginnings, the Licking County battered women's and children's center, and of LEADS Swimming, an instructional swimming program for underserved youth, was singled out by the Granville Area Chamber of Commerce to receive the annual Kussmaul Award for exceptional service to the community. Though it was originally conceived as a project for this last fall's first-year class, the construction of the first Denison-sponsored Habitat for Humanity house in Newark benefited from time and energy committed by a number of today's graduates. And my hat is off to the hundreds of students, including many of you, who blended work and fun just a few weeks ago to raise over $75,000 for the American Cancer Society at Denison's own Relay For Life under the direction of a well-organized committee led by senior Sarah Coulam.
On the strength of top three finishes in fourteen of 22 men's and women's varsity sports, including seven conference championships and four conference tournament championships, Denison has earned its ninth consecutive North Coast Athletic Conference All-Sports Trophy, its 10th overall. This year, men's and women's cross-country, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's lacrosse, and women's basketball, soccer, and softball, along with individual competitors from men's tennis and, still possibly, women's outdoor track and field all advanced to NCAA tournament competition. In fact, the seniors on the men's lacrosse team are just back from meeting No. 1 ranked Salisbury State University of Maryland in the second round of the NCAA playoffs. The women of the Big Red softball squad also are here after playing three games in the double-elimination NCAA regional tournament in Virginia, joining the members of the women's lacrosse team who likewise had the opportunity earlier last week to participate in the NCAA playoffs. Twenty-four women and men were awarded All-American standing in six sports.
Many Denison students thrive upon the combination of academic and artistic challenge, off-campus service, athletic activity, and campus leadership in different proportions appropriate to the individual. Some pursue these combinations, highlighted 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 2006 includes five 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 Ishani Banerji, Julianne McCall, Kimberly Murley, Cora Walsh, and Colleen Wirtz.
As a class, 2006, 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, friends, whose loss during these college years inevitably makes commencement less complete for some of us. Members of the Class of 2006, 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 applause.
Thank you. I now present to you the chair of the faculty, Dr. Charles Sokolik, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who will introduce Julianne McCall, speaker for the Class of 2006.