Commencement 2011 - President's Welcome
By President Dale T. Knobel
This is the 170th Commencement of Denison University, but, members of the Class of 2011, you are graduating in the college’s 180th 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 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 2011 performed by an ensemble of the Denison Orchestra conducted by Professor Andy Carlson. You’ve heard the fanfare before; it was written for your induction onto the rolls of the college in 2007 by Professor HyeKyung Lee of the Department of Music.
In the 180 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. As I point out to graduates every year, since you arrived on campus, Class of 2011, about sixteen hundred other men and women with whom you shared this campus in the fall of 2007—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 college staff, including two professors who we especially recognize today, but 42 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, enhancing student-faculty interaction which is at the heart of a Denison education. Although you may have forgotten it, when you arrived on campus in the fall of 2007, the wireless data network, covering the campus indoors and out and allowing access to the internet from just about everywhere, was barely a year old. And now, five years later, it’s already nearly achieved old age and will be replaced by a new generation network. Just as you began at Denison, Slayter Union reopened after receiving major renovations, and just last year, two buildings on Mulberry Circle reopened after being 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, in 2009, the Bryant Arts Center grew out of the restored and expanded Cleveland Hall, originally built in 1904. The American Green Building Council awarded the Bryant Center LEED Gold status for its contributions to the environmental sustainability of the Denison campus, setting a standard for all current and future construction at Denison.
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. Twelve new tenure track professors will join us in the fall. And soon, of course, taking your place on campus will be some 605 members of the Class of 2015, men and women a little like you were in the fall of 2007, but different, too, with their own character, tastes, and perspectives.
The construction fence that went up around Ebaugh Laboratories just before last year’s Commencement is about to come down, a sign that completely rebuilt facilities for Chemistry and Biochemistry will come on line later in the summer. The big hole by the Mitchell Center is beginning to fill up with concrete and by this time next year will open as a new natatorium—which is not meant just to serve our National Champion Men’s Swimming and Diving Team and National Runner-Up Women’s Swimming and Diving Team but which they’ve certainly earned! As it comes to completion, an addition on the front of the older Gregory Pool and Livingston Gymnasium buildings will provide a new entrance and gathering area, new coaching offices and athletic training areas, and, finally, the old Gregory Pool will be renovated into a bi-level fitness area promoting healthy activity for the entire campus community. Before classes resume next fall, a renovation and addition project will begin on Chamberlin Lodge on the North Quad, converting it into another fifty-six bed apartment-style residence hall. 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 2011. In all, you number 478 graduates and you have earned 5 Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, 80 Bachelor of Science degrees, and 393 Bachelor of Arts degrees.
The Co-Valedictorians of the class are Lorren Ostojic, who has earned a B.A. in Communication, and John Snee, who has earned a B.A. in Biology. The Salutatorian is Kate Morely, with a B.A. in English. Actually, 97—or 20%--of you have prospered so well in your studies that you are graduating with Latin honors—60 cum laude, 27 magna cum laude, and 10 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-one members of the Class into Phi Beta Kappa, the historic national academic honor society, joining three members of the Class who had the rare honor of being inducted last year as Juniors. On Friday, I had the pleasure of joining Dr. Jim Pletcher and faculty colleagues at a ceremony to recognize graduates who fulfilled the requirements of Denison's Honors Program. And across the college, no fewer than 74 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. And if you think you are hearing (though not seeing) double as the names of graduates are called, we have two sets of non-identical twins in the class, Kristin and Michael Cobb and Jaelyn and Katelyn Johnson.
Several of you have represented your classmates especially well by attracting national attention for your academic achievements. Post-graduate international teaching awards funded through different elements of the Fulbright program are taking Sean Beebe to France, Callan Hetterich to Columbia, and Zachary Nixon and Peter Zambon to Germany. Jacob Schafer, a double major in Mathematics and Educational Studies, has been awarded a rare Woodrow Willson Teaching Fellowship, one of the many graduate fellowships being exercised by members of the Class of 2011 pursuing graduate and professional degrees across the country and around the world. Sybylle Freiermuth and Megan Keaveney earned special recognition by having their proposal to work with the economic and social empowerment of women in Mumbai, India through the Women of India Network, accepted by and funded by the international Davis Projects for Peace program.
As these forms of recognition highlight, members of the Class of 2011 repeatedly seized opportunities to challenge themselves both in and out of the classroom. Many of today's graduates participated actively on one of the 28 service committees of the Denison Community Association or in the America Reads Program, providing this year alone some 20,000 hours of documented service to area schools, communities, and social service agencies. Lauren Sabo received a statewide Charles J. Ping Award for service excellence from the Ohio Campus Compact and Zachary Goldman, Denison Community Association Chairperson, and Erica Duffy were singled out by the Granville Area Chamber of Commerce to receive the annual Kussmaul Award for exceptional student service to the local community. 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.
For twelve of the last thirteen years, Denison has owned the All-Sports Trophy, now called the Collins Trophy, of the North Coast Athletic Conference. Last year, was the one exception when we were just edged out, but Denison women’s and men’s athletic teams made up for it by winning the trophy in style again this year. Seven of our twenty-three varsity teams took first place in conference and three were conference tournament champions. Two more finished in second place and two others in third. No fewer than eleven of our twenty-three teams qualified or had individual qualifiers for NCAA Championship competition, with the Men’s Swimming and Diving Team, under the leadership of Head Swimming Coach Greg Parini and Head Diving Coach Jason Glorius, capturing the NCAA Division III national championship. Women’s basketball ran through the regular season at 28-0, Women’s Soccer advanced to the Elite 8 in NCAA national tournament competition, and both Men’s Lacrosse and Women’s Tennis are still in NCAA tournament play. 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, including Senior football co-captain and chairperson of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, Dan Crawford, who was recognized as the top college football student athlete from our region by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame and was one of five national finalists from all sports for the Coach John Wooden Citizenship Cup. Distance runner and scholar-athlete Katie Navarre was selected for not one but two highly competitive NCAA post-graduate scholarships.
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 2011 includes seven such honorees, who were announced at the Academic Awards Convocation in April and who will be the first to cross the stage to receive their diplomas today. They are Dan Crawford, Sibylle Freiermuth, Mark Heckman, Zack Goldman, Allison Kranek, Katie Navarre, and Shavely Peralta. I ask you to give them special applause.
As a class, 2011, 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 2011, 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. The Class of 2011 suffered the special loss of classmate Maria Toledano during your first college year. Today we remember Maria and the effect her lively personality had upon her fellow students and professors.
Denison Class of 2011, I congratulate you as we mark this day of completion for an important part of your life and this day of beginning for what lies ahead.