WOOSTER, Ohio — If Wooster’s seniors learned one final lesson in their waning hours as undergraduates on Monday, it was this: Don’t let anything — or anyone — rain on your parade.
Despite a predawn downpour that drenched the Oak Grove and forced the College’s 144th commencement indoors, President Grant Cornwell delivered a ray of sunshine with an early morning decree that the Class of 2014 would, indeed, march through the arch — ensuring that at least a small portion of the ceremony would be outdoors.
Following the procession, Wooster’s pipers and drummers led 467 soon-to-be-minted graduates into Timken Gymnasium, where they were greeted by a spirited ovation from a standing-room-only crowd.
In his welcoming remarks, President Cornwell expressed his admiration for the “breadth and quality of the students’ scholarship and research” as well as “the level of sophistication” of their Senior Independent Study projects. “I appreciate your spirit of engagement on such issues as diversity and sustainability,” he added, “You could not have a better preparation than your Wooster education for the world you are about to lead.”
Cornwell then recognized several award winners, including the top scholars in the Class of 2014 — Zena Lapp, Khoa Dan Le Nguyen, Aaron McKee, and Chelsey Porter — who shared the Jonas O. Notestein Prize with perfect 4.0 grade point averages. Also recognized was Zoë Zwegat, who received the Dan F. Lockhart Outstanding Senior Award for high academic achievement, exceptional involvement in extracurricular activities, and outstanding contributions to the College.
Speaking on behalf of the Class of 2014 were Zachary Harvey and Mae Manupipatpong, who shared their reflections on the past four years. Harvey talked about his journey and how his dreams changed when he became exposed to different areas of study. Manupipatpong took time to thank the parents for their “love, commitment, and unshakable belief that we could succeed.” She also commended her classmates for their past achievements and future potential. “Wherever we end up, I know this class will make a mark because we are steadfast and compassionate about accomplishing our goals,” she said. “What we’ve learned here can take us well beyond the campus. We can shape a better world.”
In addition to the undergraduate degrees, two honorary degrees were also conferred — the first to Elijah Anderson, one of the country’s leading urban ethnographers, and the other to Elizabeth Putnam, founding president of the Student Conservation Association, one of the nation’s first environmental organizations.
Anderson talked about racism in America and reminded everyone in the crowd of nearly 4,000 that while much progress has been made in race relations and equality, racism still exists. “What’s changed is that it has become more nuanced, more textured than in the past,” he said.
Putnum saluted Wooster’s commitment to undergraduate research, describing it as an “inspiring” enterprise, and told graduates how rewarding it can be to meet life’s challenges head on. “The choices one makes can have an incredible impact,” she said. “I have so much admiration for those who want to make a difference with their lives. It is important to see challenges not as daunting but as opportunities. We define ourselves by how we respond to these circumstances. Whatever you do, live for your passion, and you will discover what you truly love. It may even become your life’s work.”
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