Participants and spectators who gathered on the lower campus for Denison’s 168th annual Commencement on Sunday, May 17, agreed that the brilliant blue sky, lush green grass, gentle spring breezes and beautiful setting were the perfect backdrop for a special occasion. It was a day of hugs and tears as parents and faculty members embraced the newly minted alums and the graduates themselves began the process of saying goodbye to the college they had learned to love.
The Class of 2009 numbered 502 graduates who earned three Bachelor of Fine Arts, 75 Bachelor of Science and 424 Bachelor of Arts degrees. Seventy-seven of them completed senior honors projects, one was a triple major and 124 were double majors. Fifty-five graduated as members of the Honors Program. Economics claimed the top number of majors, with communication second and biology third.
The class of 2009’s senior week commenced on Tuesday evening with a reception hosted by President and Mrs. Knobel at Monomoy Place. On Wednesday, they gathered for an evening at Easton Town Center; Thursday featured all-night bowling; and Friday, a Senior Brunch on campus. Special academic and social get-togethers included the Honors Program reception for its graduates on Friday afternoon and a Phi Beta Kappa breakfast on Saturday.
On Saturday the graduates and their families could choose from Baccalaureate Services at 1:30 or 4 p.m. at Swasey Chapel and both events were filled to capacity. The service is designed to present many of the religious and spiritual traditions observed at Denison and its pluralistic community. It was planned by student members of the Baccalaureate Committee under the direction of University Chaplin Mark R. Orten and included piano and violin music played by student soloists, joyous songs from the 36-student member Baccalaureate choir, a haunting poem sung in the Indian classical tradition, readings from world religions and literary traditions, and an inspiring address, “Paying Attention: An Educated Awareness,” by Chaplain Orten. A reception for students, parents and guests followed in the Burton Morgan atrium.
Commencement day activities began at 10 a.m. Sunday with the traditional Faculty Coffee. Students and their families gathered on the Academic Quadrangle where they took advantage of the opportunity to reminisce about “aha!” classroom moments, learning and growing with the professors who had become friends as well as mentors.
By noon, the graduates milled around the Swasey Chapel lawn, donning caps and gowns and pinning on shoulder cords of red, silver or gold to indicate Latin honors of cum laude (88), magna cum laude (22) or summa cum laude (29), respectively. Associate Provost Keith Boone and six Commencement wranglers managed to get the 488 graduates in alphabetical order (14 graduated in absentia) and remain that way as, two-by-two, they took their final trip across Chapel Walk to the Academic Quad, then down the 151 steps to the Fine Arts area. Class Co-governors Meredith Atwood and Donterio Porter who carried the 2009 banner led the group. Awaiting them next to Doane Dance Building were members of the faculty and administration, garbed in full academic regalia, who formed a double column through which they passed, exchanging hugs and high fives.
Accompanying their arrival was a 14-piece musical group gathered on the balcony of Burton Hall that overlooked the audience. The student and faculty group presented selections by Frideric Handel and was conducted by Associate Professor and Chair of the Music Department Ching-chu Hu. After the ceremony began with the ringing of the Denison bell, the group played Hu’s original Fanfare for the Class of 2009, written for them four years ago. President Knobel introduced Thomas E. Hoaglin ’71, vice-chair and chair-elect of the Denison Board of Trustees who then welcomed the class, congratulating them on their new alumni status.
President Knobel spoke to the class about the changes that had occurred in the four years since their arrival and commending seniors who had been awarded Fulbright post-graduate research and teaching awards, a Davis Peace Prize and inclusion on USA Today’s list of All-USA College Academic Teams. He congratulated valedictorian Cecilia Murch and co-salutatorians Benjamin Holder and Michelle Oyakawa and the newly inducted 37 members of Phi Beta Kappa. He praised the students’ work in service projects including Denison’s Relay for Life that raised $50,000 for the American Cancer Society. The President took special pride in announcing Denison’s record reception of its 11th North Coast Athletic Conference Championship, noting that many Denison students thrive on a combination of academic challenge, off-campus service, athletic activity and campus leadership. One special group of these was recipients of President’s Medals this year: Meredith Atwood, Michael Barnes, Bryan Blaski, Kristen Hohl and Charisse Mandimika.
Chair of the Faculty Karen Graves then introduced Jessica Hall to give the Senior Class Address, “And for Our Next Act ….” In it, Jessica told her fellow classmates to follow the advice of author James Baldwin and tightrope walker Jean Francois Gravelot to let their experience guide them and be willing to take risks.
Co-governors Meredith Atwood and Donterio Porter announced that the class of 2009 had raised $5,271, with a participation rate of 42 percent to the senior class gift that will go directly to the Annual Fund for general scholarships and financial aid. President Knobel presided over the conferring of honorary degrees of Doctor of Humane Letters to acclaimed author and storyteller Ann Hagedorn ’71 and distinguished Communication scholar Orlando Taylor ’57. Ms. Hagedorn addressed “The Gift of the Liberal Arts” and Dr. Taylor spoke on “Leaving Denison and Entering the Global Community.”
Provost Bradley Bateman announced the name of each member of the class, and flash bulbs popped as parents and a professional photographer captured the new graduates with their treasured diplomas. President Knobel charged them to avoid cutoffs and short cuts as they go forward in life from Denison to do better, be better, and enjoy the experiences of life more. Senior members of Hilltoppers, Ladies Night Out, Tehillah and Du-Wop then gathered on stage to lead the audience in singing the alma mater, “To Denison,” written by V.E. Field in 1903. As the inspiring recessional music filled the air, nearly 500 caps were thrown upward toward the sky and the future. The beginning of their new lives had started.
- Commencement Gallery I
- Commencement Gallery II
- Commencement Gallery III
- Photo Gallery by the Newark Advocate
- Commencement Speaker - Ann Hagedorn '71
- Commencement Speaker - Orlando Taylor '57
- Trustee's Welcome by Tom Hoaglin '71
- President's Welcome by Dale Knobel
- Senior Class Address by Jessica Hall '09
- Announcement of the Senior Class Gift by Meredith Atwood '09 and Donterio Porter '08
- Commencement Address by Ann Hagedorn '71
- Commencement Address by Orlando Taylor '57
- Charge to the Class by Dale Knobel
- Senior Reflections: Essays by members of class of '09
- 2009 Commencement Videos on YouTube
- 2009 Commencement Program [pdf]