WOOSTER, Ohio — Before Wooster's 383 graduating seniors were released into the “real world,” they were encouraged by distinguished scholars and fellow classmates to take a few moments to reflect on the past four years during the College’s 143rd commencement ceremony on a bright but brisk Monday morning in the Oak Grove.
Among those offering advice was honorary degree recipient John H. Bracey, esteemed Professor of African American studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Bracey, who received the Doctor of Humane Letters degree, suggested that college students are already part of the “real word,” and that in order to affirm their education, they must share it with others. “I can’t think of anything more important than teaching and guiding young people,” he said. “If you are passionate about something, teach it to someone else so they can see the possibilities. Take a minute to share what you know. If we become a society that doesn’t value this (concept), we are in deep trouble.”
Bracey also touched on the perils of technology in accelerating the speed of life. “Just because you can do something fast, doesn’t mean you have to do it instantly,” he said. “Take time to be reflective. Technology should give us more time to think, not less. Life is deeper that 140 characters on Twitter.”
Joining Bracey was fellow honorary degree recipient Jacqueline Barton, a prominent professor of chemistry at the California Institute of Technology. Barton, who was presented with the Doctor of Science degree, joked that she had received honorary degrees in the past, but had never been asked to speak, perhaps because “they think chemists can’t talk.” With that in mind, Barton delivered a message that was clear and concise. “Look inside yourself and (determine) what is important to you,” she said. “Then follow that path. Go with your gut; work hard; have fun. The more you enjoy what you do, the more passionate you will be about it.”
Classmates David Freund and Erin Plews-Ogan added their voices to the conversation as they, too, reflected on the past four years. “This is our time to be recognized for the effort we put into our education,” said Freund. “We are all aware of how much we have grown. Wooster provided the opportunities; we chose what we wanted to do.”
Plews-Ogan talked about Wooster’s role in helping students stay grounded during a period of time that can be “uncomfortable” and “scary,” and the importance of going through the experience together as a campus community. “Think back on your first year,” she said. “Think about others on your path, especially those who listened to your questions. We have become who we are because of each other.”
Wooster President Grant Cornwell opened the proceedings, which followed the traditional "march through the arch" behind Wooster’s pipers and drummers. “It is an exceptionally exciting time to be 21 and a graduate of The College of Wooster,” he said. “You could not have a better preparation than a Wooster education for the changing world you will lead.”
Cornwell then recognized several of Wooster’s award winners, including the recipients of the highest academic honor: The Jonas O. Notestein Prize, which was shared by Plews-Ogan, Aimon Dwan, and Lauren Lee, as well as the Dan F. Lockhart Outstanding Senior Award, which went to Lauren Gilliss.
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