Commencement 2012 - President's Welcome
This is the 171st Commencement of Denison University, but, members of the Class of 2012, you are graduating in the college’s 181st 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 2012 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 2008 by Professor HyeKyung Lee of the Department of Music.
In the 181 years since its founding, Denison has evolved from a frontier academy into 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 2012, about sixteen hundred other men and women with whom you shared this campus in the fall of 2008—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 only grow as you become reacquainted with them at reunions and 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 three professors who we especially recognize today, but forty-two 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 2008, Cleveland Hall was still making its transition from a 1904 men's gymnasium to the spectacular Bryant Arts Center that opened your sophomore year. The construction fence that went up around Ebaugh Laboratories at the end of your sophomore year was down when you returned last fall, and students and faculty alike have declared the completely rebuilt facilities for Chemistry and Biochemistry that opened in August "Ebaughsome!"
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. Nine new tenure track professors will join us in the fall. And soon, of course, taking your place on campus will be some 615 members of the Class of 2016, men and women a little like you were in the fall of 2008, but different, too, with their own character, tastes, and perspectives.
Physical changes are coming, too. Last year's big hole in the ground is now a state-of-the-art aquatic center due to open later this summer. 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. When classes resume next fall, a renovated and expanded Chamberlin Lodge on the North Quad will offer apartment style accommodations to 56 more seniors. 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 2012. In all, you number 512 graduates and you have earned 7 Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, 88 Bachelor of Science degrees, and 417 Bachelor of Arts degrees.
The Co-Valedictorians of the class (with perfect 4.0 cumulative grade point averages) are Karen Watts of Lewis Center, Ohio, who has earned a B. A. in East Asian Studies, and Courtney Yong of Richmond, California, who has earned a B.S. in Biochemistry. The Co-Salutatorian's (with matching 3.99 GPAs--curse that A minus!) are Rachel Stevenson from Fairlawn, Ohio, earning a B.A. in Biology, and Samuel Wolock, of Leawood, Kansas, earning a B.S. in Biochemistry. Actually, 103 of you have prospered so well in your studies that you are graduating with Latin honors—47 cum laude, 39 magna cum laude, and 17 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 thirty-four members of the Class into Phi Beta Kappa, the historic national academic honor society, joining two 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. Joan Krone and faculty colleagues at a ceremony to recognize seven graduates who fulfilled the requirements of Denison's Honors Program, the last graduates of this curricular initiative begun in the 1980s. And across the college, no fewer than 61 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 or, in some cases seeing, double as the names of graduates are called, we have four sets twins in the class: the Carreros, Nicholsons, Rays, and Vaskes!
Several of you have represented your classmates especially well by attracting national attention for your academic achievements. Post-graduate international study and teaching awards funded through different elements of the Fulbright program were earned by Chelsea McGill, who is going to Bangladesh, and Marissa Ortiz, who is headed to the Czech Republic. Dee Salukombo earned special recognition by having his proposal to develop a Technology Learrning Center for the Conglese community in his original hometown of Kirotshe accepted and funded by the international Davis Projects for Peace program.
As these forms of recognition highlight, members of the Class of 2012 repeatedly seized opportunities to challenge themselves both in and out of the classroom. Many of today's graduates participated actively on one of the 27 service committees of the Denison Community Association or in the America Reads Program, providing this year alone more than 21,000 hours of documented service to area schools, communities, and social service agencies. Elena Speridakos received a statewide Charles J. Ping Award for service excellence from the Ohio Campus Compact and Dean Stambules was singled out by the Granville Area Chamber of Commerce to receive the annual Kussmaul Award for exceptional student service to the local community through his work as a youth lacrosse coach. 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 college men and women the opportunity to affirm their intention to consider the social and environmental implications of the work they do and the lives they lead.
For 12 of the last 14 years, Denison has owned the All-Sports Trophy, now called the Collins Trophy, of the North Coast Athletic Conference. On the strength of first place conference finishes in field hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and men’s and women’s swimming and diving; second-place finishes in women’s basketball and men’s tennis; and third-place finishes in football, men’s golf and women’s tennis, Denison will either win the trophy again or come in a very close second. The men’s swimming and diving team, under the leadership of NCAA Swimming Coach of the Year Gregg Parini and Head Diving Coach Jason Glorius, as we all know, captured the NCAA Division III national championship for the second year in a row, with the women’s squad not far behind in third place nationally. men’s lacrosse has had its winningest season in 45 years and has advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA tournament. as has women’s lacrosse and softball, winners of their North Coast Conference tourneys, also advanced to NCAA play. Between one and three runners are likely to represent the college in the NCAA track and field national championship, and we expect that we may also be represented at the NCAAs in tennis.
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, evidence that the discipline of athletics can help prepare men and women for academic excellence. Kate Westenberger of the Class of 2012 was recently invested with Denison’s brand new James T. Glerum Presidential Award for having combined academic, athletic, and leadership excellence and Chris Kozlowski and Brittany Brannon were recognized with the Scheiderer and Schweizer Awards for turning in the strongest academic performance for, respectively, a man and a woman, among almost 150 graduating seniors participating on varsity athletic teams. Chris Olson and Emily Schoreder received the North Coast Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete Awards.
Many Denison students thrive upon the combination of academic challenge, off-campus service, 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. Special exemplars of this are recognized as Denison President's Medalists. The Class of 2012 includes four 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 Meg Gaertner, Nicki Jimenez, Steven Profitt, and Jessica Wilson.
As a class, 2012, 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 2012, 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 2012 suffered the special loss last summer of Gus McCravey, who is remembered by many friends.