Wittenberg Celebrates Class of 2011 With 166th Commencement Exercises
Published May 14, 2011
Springfield, Ohio —Forced to move indoors because of the threat of inclement weather, the members of Wittenberg University’s Class of 2011 allowed nothing to dampen their spirits as they celebrated the culmination of their undergraduate academic careers during the 166th annual Commencement exercises.
University President Mark H. Erickson led a celebration of the 387 members of the Class of 2011, taking time to pay tribute to the graduates by noting extraordinary accomplishments and the exceptional journeys. He also welcomed three distinguished guests in attendance, the 2011 Commencement speaker, LiveSTRONG President and CEO Doug Ulman, Philanthropist Susan Hirt Hagen, class of 1957, and local business leader and emeritus member of Wittenberg’s Board of Directors Fred R. Leventhal. All three received honorary degrees during the ceremony.
Author Sara Gruen, who penned the best-selling novels Water for Elephants and Ape House, was also recognized with an honorary degree, which she received after speaking at the inaugural Allen J. Koppenhaver Literary Lecture last month.
Ulman, a three-time cancer survivor, has committed his life to eradicating cancer, which comes in many forms and kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. He also encourages people to live life to the fullest, a message he conveyed to the graduates and their enthusiastic family and friends who filled the stands in Pam Evans Smith Arena.
“Being useful to your community, serving humanity, giving voice and energy to a cause, passing on your light to others often requires overthrowing your limitations and overcoming your fears,” Ulman said, acknowledging Wittenberg’s motto of “Having Light, We Pass It On To Others.” “It is true for me, and starting now especially true for you.Now is the time.”
He cautioned the graduates and their family members not to think of the job as being done. Graduation is a landmark event that marks the end of an educational journey, but Ulman exhorted the graduates to aspire to more. Their opportunity to impact the world is just beginning.
“Go forth, and be fearless,” he said. “As you leave the relative protection and routine of university life to begin your journey into the unknowable future, that is all you really need to remember. In service to others, in pursuit of your dreams, be fearless.”
Ulman related personal stories about his life and the individuals and experiences that have shaped his perspective today. He encouraged the graduates to maintain a positive outlook no matter what obstacles present themselves.
Similarly, Erickson discussed the opportunity to influence others in a positive way, much as the university’s motto dictates. The graduates’ Wittenberg experience, guided by a faculty that he “would put up against any in the country,” hopefully gave them the necessary perspective and a foundation for lifelong learning.
“I encourage you today to take some time to ponder that motto and what it means in your life,” he said. “Having light is all about finding your passion and your calling, and I encourage each of you to find what you love and throw yourself into it. If you do that, work will no longer be work. So do what you love and the rest will follow.”
The graduating class includes numerous individuals who have discovered a passion for community service, including Senior Class President Heather DeSantis, who shared some of her favorite Wittenberg memories. She noted the numerous “unforgettable experiences” graduates have had serving others through service trips throughout the world and around the local community.
Her university-mandated community service experience – and her decision to continue the work over and above the required 30 hours – “taught me to treat people with grace.”
Wittenberg’s Class of 2011 included 16 “non-traditional” students from Wittenberg’s School of Community Education, undergraduate students from 22 different states and five countries outside of the United States. Undergraduate degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Science were awarded, in addition to two Master of Arts in Education degrees. A total of 30 different majors, spanning the alphabet from art to theatre and dance, were awarded.
Family and friends from across the nation were in attendance. One grandmother even crossed the Atlantic for the event, traveling from Dublin, Ireland, to celebrate the occasion.
A total of 117 graduates earned Latin honors in recognition of their exceptional academic pursuits. Forty-five of them were designated cum laude (3.5-3.69 grade point average), 28 magna cum laude (3.7-3.79) and 44 summa cum laude (3.8-4.0).
Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Erin Pence