Commencement 2010 - President's Welcome
by President Dale T. Knobel
This is the 169th Commencement of Denison University, but, members of the Class of 2010, you are graduating in the college’s 179th year since its founding in the fall of 1831. There were no graduates, of course, in the first years of the college’s existence and the Civil War interrupted the progress toward a degree for many students about a century and a half ago — thus the discrepancy between the college’s age and number of its Commencements. On this special day we have heard the fanfare for the Class of 2010 performed by an ensemble of Denison students who are part of group of more than fifty Denisonians who will be travelling to China in just a few weeks to present both instrumental and choral concerts at the Expo 2010 in Shanghai and subsequently, in Beijing, including a concert on the Great Wall. We are all excited to have our college represented in this way!
In the 179 years since its founding, Denison has evolved from a frontier academy to a leading undergraduate arts and sciences college with a national and even international reputation. It has not 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 arrived on campus, Class of 2010, about sixteen hundred other men and women with whom you shared this campus in the fall of 2006 — the sophomores, juniors, and seniors of your first year-- have already graduated and a similar number have taken their places in the classes that follow behind 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 nearly 4,000 Denisonians 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 faculty and key administrative staff, but 36 new professors joined the permanent Denison faculty since you arrived, bringing their special skills and energies to the classroom, laboratory, and studio. And because of the generous support of alumni, parents, and friends of the college shared with Denison during the “Higher Ground Campaign” that was completed in 2008, the faculty is actually larger today than when you began and the student body, by design, a little smaller, enhancing student-faculty relations.
Although you may have forgotten it, when you arrived on campus in the fall of 2006, the wireless data network, covering the campus indoors and out and allowing access to the internet from just about everywhere, was brand new. The reference area of Doane Library evolved during your four years into a “learning commons,” bringing together in one place resources for locating information either in print or digital form. In your time at Denison, Slayter Union received major renovations, and just last year, two buildings on Mulberry Circle were overhauled into new homes for the Cinema Department and for the Open House: The Center for Spiritual and Religious Life at Denison. Most dramatically of all, the Bryant Arts Center grew out of the restored and expanded Cleveland Hall, originally built in 1904. Just last week the American Green Building Council awarded the Bryant Center LEED Gold status for its contributions to the environmental sustainability of the Denison campus.
Nor will the campus freeze itself in time after your departure today and preserve itself unchanged as you begin to enjoy your new status as alumni/ae. Fifteen new tenure track professors will join us in the fall. And soon, of course, taking your place on campus will be some 620 members of the Class of 2014, men and women a little like you were in the fall of 2006, but different, too, with their own character, tastes, and perspectives.
The construction fence around Ebaugh Laboratories is a sign that new facilities for Chemistry are underway in a renovated and expanded facility that will open a year from this fall. And if fundraising continues to be as successful as it has been, we will commence a $40 million expansion of the athletic and recreation center later this year. No, Denison won't be EXACTLY the same each time you return to the hill as alumni/ae. And I hope 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 2010. In all, you number 519 graduates and you have earned 6 Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, 88 Bachelor of Science degrees, and 425 Bachelor of Arts degrees.
The Valedictorian of the class is Hannah Miller, who has earned a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology, and the Salutatorian is Suzanne Humphrey, who has earned a B.A. with a double major in History and Environmental Studies. Actually, 113 of you have prospered so well in your studies that you are graduating with Latin honors — 58 cum laude, 34 magna cum laude, and 21 receiving the highest honor, summa cum laude--recognized by different color shoulder cords on each recipient's gown. Yesterday, I participated in the induction of twenty-seven members of the Class into Phi Beta Kappa, the historic national academic honor society, joining Hannah Miller, who had the rare honor of being inducted last year as a Junior. On Friday, I had the pleasure of joining Dr. Joan Krone and faculty colleagues at a ceremony to recognize 33 graduates who fulfilled the requirements of Denison's Honors Program. And across the college, no fewer than 108 of you are recognized for the success of your senior research 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. Courtney Cob and Jane-Coleman Harbison have earned international Fulbright post-graduate research and study awards to universities in, respectively, Ireland and Canada. Post-graduate teaching awards funded through different elements of the Fulbright program are taking Michael Shirar, Thomas Simeon, and Leah Ewing to Austria, Nora Deeg to Spain, Kim Lewis to Ecuador, and Teresa Young to Argentina. The U.S. Department of State has awarded Leslie Marshall a Critical Language Scholarship to Indonesia. And Chuan-Xing Ho and Jenna Kelly both earned rare Goldwater Scholarships, a program authorized by Congress to recognize accomplishment in the sciences.
As these forms of recognition highlight, members of the Class of 2010 repeatedly 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 or in the America Reads Program, providing this year alone more than 27,500 hours of documented service to area schools, communities, and social service agencies. Rachel Voelkle, an officer and key leader of the Denison Community Association, received a statewide Ping Award for service Excellence from the Ohio Campus Compact and Elizabeth Pence, a counseling intern at Granville High School, was singled out by the Granville Area Chamber of Commerce to receive the annual Kussmaul Award for exceptional student service to the local community. 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 more than $42,000 for the American Cancer Society at Denison's own Relay for Life. Today, providing visual evidence of the commitment of many Denison students to preserving the quality of life worldwide are the green ribbons worn on student and faculty gowns that have been distributed as part of a nationwide effort to give men and women at colleges and universities the opportunity to affirm their intention to consider the social and environmental implications of the work they do and the lives they lead.
Although Denison fell just short of winning the North Coast Athletic Conference All-Sports Trophy — an honor we have “owned” for eleven of the past twelve years and are now, I guess, reluctantly willing to share with a competing college for maybe a year — five varsity women’s and men’s teams took first place in conference competition, three grabbed second place, and three more registered third place finishes in our ten-team athletic conference. In addition, three teams were conference tournament champions. No fewer than ten of our twenty-three varsity squads qualified for NCAA Championship competition, with men’s and women’s swimming teams each capturing second place nationally. Women’s softball and tennis and men’s lacrosse all participated in NCAA post-season competition this week, and the tennis team advanced by virtue of its victory yesterday over Johns Hopkins University to the national quarterfinals. I am particularly pleased that so many Denison student athletes were recognized at the conference, regional, or national level by placement on all-academic teams.
Many Denison students thrive upon the combination of academic challenge, off-campus service, athletic activity, and campus leadership in different proportions appropriate to their own individual interests. Some pursue these combinations 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 2010 includes six such honorees, who were announced at the Academic Awards Convocation in April and who will be the first to cross the stage today. They are Zach Elmassian, Betsy Fisher, Chuan-Xing Ho, Jenna Kelly, Lauren Meyer, and Hannah Miller.
As a class, 2010, you have accomplished much at Denison — much that builds in the rest of us anticipation for your achievements in the years ahead. 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. Members of the Class of 2010, 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.
Finally, 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. This year has been particularly difficult for the campus community because of the loss of one of our own, Lindsay Gund of the Class of 2010. Today we remember Lindsay and her engagement with her professors and fellow students by the awarding of the degree that she had nearly completed before the accident that took her from us earlier this spring. Lindsay’s name will be announced among today’s graduates.
For all of us, this is a day of both memory and celebration! Thank you.