President's Welcome by Dale Knobel
B.A. Yale University; Ph.D. Northwestern University
This is the 166th Commencement of Denison University, but, members of the Class of 2007, you are graduating in the college's 176th spring since its founding in the fall of 1831 and have experienced this last year what we have styled in tortured Latin our "Septaquintaquinquecentennial," Denison's celebration of being one-and-three-quarters centuries old.
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 2007, fifteen hundred or so others with whom you shared this campus in the fall of 2003 have already graduated and a like number have taken their places in the classes that follow you. While at any point in the last four years, we have been a college of approximately 2100, you've actually crossed paths with, learned with and from, and made friends among more than 4,000 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 41 new professors 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, the Campus Common, flanked by the Morgan and Talbot buildings, was a brand new addition to the campus, but the Common complex quickly became central to campus life. Apartments with kitchens for student living were still a new thing at Denison, and it was hard for the Board of Trustees to imagine that they would be so popular that we would have to add the buildings that we now call Wright, Hayes, and Upper and Lower Elm and to think about even more. 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 learning spaces became so-called "electronic" classrooms. In your senior year, the campus, indoors and out, became a wireless network. During your time at Denison, the old Biology Building was transformed and renamed Higley Hall, the home of the Economics and Communications Departments as well as of First Year Programs and the Alford Center for Service Learning.
Nor will the campus freeze itself in time after your departure today and preserve itself unchanged as you evolve begin to enjoy your new status as alumni/ae. Eleven new tenure track professors will join us in the fall. And soon, of course, there'll be some 575 members of the Class of 2011, men and women a little like you were in the fall of 2003, but different, too, already part of a whole new student generation with their own character, tastes, and perspectives. Because of the generous gift from Don Bryant '64, Pete and Joy Alpaugh '44 and '45, and the Boehl Family, the college will commence this summer on the complete renovation and expansion of the studio arts facilities in Cleveland Hall. The renewed and enlarged structure, the Bryant Arts Center, should open for classes in the spring of 2009. And another round of renovations will come this summer to Slayter Student Union, replacing your dear old mail boxes and creating a new, more visible home for WDUB, the campus radio station. 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 marks 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 2007. In all, you number 550 graduates and you have earned eight Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, 70 Bachelor of Science degrees, and 472 Bachelor of Arts degrees.
The valedictorians of the class are Elaine Binkley, who has earned a B.S. in biology, and Alisha Visan, who has earned a B.A. in sociology and anthropolgy. The salutatorian, Scott Wedemeyer, earned a B.A. in philosophy. Actually, 144 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 31 members of the Class into Phi Beta Kappa, the historic academic honor society, joining classmates Elaine Binkley and Alisha Visan, 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 70 graduates who stretched themselves intellectually by fulfilling the requirements of Denison's interdisciplinary Honors Program. And just a few weeks ago, 96 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. Kimberly Freeman and Benjamin Webster have received Padagogischer Austauschdienst Teaching Assistanships to Germany through the U.S. Fulbright program. Jeff Mervosh has been awarded Denison's first Bacon House Fellowship in international realtions, an honor conferred by the association of U. S. Diplomatic and Consular Officers. Elizabeth Scharf also received an Austrian Government Teaching Assistantship through the Austrian Fulbright Commission. Elaine Binkley and Anne Young have been awarded Denison's 41st and 42nd NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships, helping keep Denison near the very top of all colleges and universities, nationwide, in the graduation of outstanding scholar-athletes. In addition to receiving the NCAA scholarship, Elaine was a finalist in the international Rhodes Scholarship competition. And added to all these, Laurel Symes received National Science Foundation Honorable Mention recognition and Alison Nitzsche was identified as a Fulbright Alternate to South Africa. It is worthy of notice that 14 national and regional "all-academic" awards were given to men and women participating on Denison varsity athletic teams, including national team academic awards for women's soccer, cross country, and field hockey.
As these last recognitions indicate, members of the Class of 2007 seized opportunities to challenge themselves both in and out of the classroom. Many of today's graduates participated actively on one of the 24 service committees of the Denison Community Association (the DCA) or in the America Reads Program, providing this year alone more than 24,000 hours of documented service to Central Ohio schools, communities, and social service agencies. Sam Benham, Chair of the DCA Committee for Legal Assistance, was singled out by the Granville Area Chamber of Commerce to receive the annual Kussmaul Award for exceptional service to the community. Sam logged 450 hours of volunteer service to Licking County Legal Aid during his time at Denison — and that was only one of Sam's community service activities! Though it was originally conceived as a project for the First-Year Class in the fall of 2005, 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 nearly $70,000 for the American Cancer Society at Denison's own Relay for Life under the direction of a well-organized committee led by seniors Aaron Bestic and Nicole Howe.
On the strength of top-three finishes in 13 of 23 men's and women's varsity sports, including three conference championships and two conference tournament championships, Denison will either win its tenth consecutive North Coast Athletic Conference All-Sports Championship or give its conference rivals a temporary break and earn second place. Five women's and four men's teams advanced to NCAA tournament play and, notably, men's swimming and diving achieved second place in the nation in NCAA Division III. Twenty-three women and men were awarded All-American standing in five sports. The Big Red women's tennis squad has advanced to the national quarterfinals and will play in Fredericksburg, Va., on Tuesday and individual men and women tennis players will participate in the national championships at the end of the week.
Many Denison students thrive upon the combination of academic challenge, off-campus service, athletic activity, and campus leadership in different proportions appropriate to each 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 2007 includes seven honorees, who were formally recognized at the Academic Awards Convocation in April and who will be the first to cross the stage today. Representing the highest levels of academic achievement and leadership at the college are graduates-in-waiting Samuel Benham, Elaine Binkley, Erin Colbert-White, Kristen Cox, Jacob Neiheisel, Evan Starr and Laurel Symes.
As a class, 2007, 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 us. Members of the Class of 2007, 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.