Visitors to Denison’s wooded hillside campus overlooking the village of Granville rarely leave without commenting on its beauty. This year, springtime at “the college on the hill” surpassed all others in recent memory, beginning with a profusion of daffodils and continuing as magnolia, dogwood and cherry trees competed to produce an artist’s palette of nature’s colors. Warm weather late in April made flip-flops the footgear of choice for the students and some afternoons seemed perfect for sunbathing on East Quad or the Reese~Shackelford Common. Seniors were focused on completing papers, final exams and commencement weekend.
In the early afternoon on Saturday, May 10, students, their families and friends strolled down Chapel Walk for the first of two identical Baccalaureate services at 1:30 and 4:30, and quickly filled Swasey to capacity. After processional music by organist Scott Hayes, the 19-member Baccalaureate Choir directed by Kevin Wines opened the service with “A Choral Fanfare” by John Rutter. Percussionists joined the singers as liturgical dancers and spirit kite bearers wove down Swasey’s center aisles and onto the stage. President Dale Knobel welcomed the audience, explaining that the service dates back to the Middle Ages at Oxford University when each graduate was required to give a farewell sermon.
At Denison, the service celebrates the pluralistic community of the college with its varied religious and spiritual traditions represented by readings from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths. University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life Mark R. Orten played an American Indian flute and struck a singing bowl between each reading. In his address, he asked the students to reflect, wonder and celebrate as they asked themselves what “this place called Denison” has meant to each of them. Attendees enjoyed an outdoor reception on Swasey lawn between the two services.
But by Saturday’s end the Class of 2008 had used up all the perfect weather. Early the next morning as the rain made its predicted arrival, the decision was announced that Commencement ceremonies would be held indoors in the Mitchell Recreation and Athletics Center. The traditional Sunday morning faculty coffee drew students, their parents and faculty members to Livingston Gymnasium for food, conversation and plenty of photographs. By noon, the 5,600 chairs set up in the track area of Mitchell were filling rapidly as family and friends gathered to watch the Class of 2008 graduate from Denison.
With the processional notes from “The Water Music” and “Music for the Royal Fireworks” sounding from the balcony, 150 faculty members robed in colorful academic regalia marched two-by-two down the center aisle and then formed a double column to greet the graduates. Led by class co-presidents Romero Huffstead and Janine Waranowicz who carried the 2008 class banner, the graduates were greeted with applause and hugs from their former teachers and mentors. When everyone was seated, the group of brass and string players directed by Associate Professor of Music Andy Carlson played “A Fanfare for the Class of 2008,” an original composition by Associate Professor of Music Ching-Chu Hu written for the class’s arrival at Denison in 2004.
To begin the ceremony, President Knobel rang the University Bell, and Trustee Kim Cromwell congratulated the members of the class, welcoming them on behalf of Denison’s Board of Trustees.
In his opening remarks to the class, President Knobel noted that the degree recipients numbered 540, with five earning Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, 83 Bachelor of Science degrees and 452 Bachelor of Arts degrees. The 128 students graduating with Latin honors of cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude wore red, silver and gold shoulder cords, respectively, and President’s Medalists James Clear, Erin Gorsich, Romero Huffstead, Jessie Kanelos, Madeline Mohre, Erik Walker and Alexandra Wilson wore gold medals. The 58 Honors Program graduates could be recognized by their bronze medals. Valedictorians of the class were Nicole Scholtz (B.S., mathematics), Matt Steinke (B.A., mathematics) and Emily Toler (B.A., English); and salutatorians were Hannah Brautigam (B.S., psychology) and Katrina Peck (B.A., psychology).
The senior class address, “Chimes and Times at Denison,” was delivered by James Clear who compared the sound of the college bell and its call to action with the blossoming of Denison students over the years as they made the most of their college experiences. The class co-governors Romero Huffstead and Janine Waranowicz proudly announced that their classmates’ participation rate of 73 percent had surpassed all previous Senior Class Gifts to the Denison Annual Fund.
Chair of the faculty Peter Kuhlman congratulated retirees Emmett Buell, professor emeritus of political science; Thomas Evans, professor emeritus of chemistry; and Larry Murdock, registrar emeritus; and thanked them for their accumulated 116 years of service to Denison.
Professor Emeritus of Biology Philip Stukus introduced National Academy of Science President Ralph J. Cicerone, upon whom President Knobel conferred an honorary doctor of science degree. Dr. Cicerone spoke to the audience about renewable energy and the importance of discovering a way to provide it without polluting, of the need to communicate with one another to understand options and the requirement for responsible citizens who can rise to face today’s challenges.
University Provost Brad Bateman presented the Class of 2008 for their degrees and then read the names and Latin honors of the 540 graduates, 510 of whom received their diplomas from the president and 30 who graduated in absentia. In his farewell charge to the class, President Knobel talked to the newly minted graduates about the South African word ubuntu, which can be translated as “Because you are, I am. Because I am, you are.”
He explained its call for responsibility to other human beings that should be engendered by a liberal education.
As the notes of the recessional music filled the air, the joyous graduates tossed their mortar boards aloft in celebration of four years well spent and their excitement about a future about to be discovered.