Commencement speaker Atul Gawande
Photographer: Scotty Hall
Grads toss their caps after graduating on Saturday
Photographer: Scotty Hall
Graduate Sam Freeman displays his cap
Photographer: Scotty Hall
Jun 11, 2011
By Monica Chapman and Colleen Kiphart
Gray skies gave way to more than 4,000 bright futures Saturday as Ohio University's 257th undergraduate commencement exercises got underway.
A roar of applause greeted the first graduates to process onto the Convocation Center's floor. Waving and smiling, the graduates, many of them holding cellular phones to their ears, entered to a blast of trumpets and the flash of hundreds of cameras.
Graduates of the College of Business, College of Fine Arts, Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology, Regional Higher Education, Scripps College of Communication and University College took part in the 9:30 a.m. ceremony. Those earning degrees from the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health Sciences and Professions, Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education and Human Services, and the Honors Tutorial College marched into the Convocation Center at 2 p.m.
In his remarks, Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis focused on the significance of an Ohio University diploma.
"Your diploma is more than a piece of paper. It is a symbol of your achievement, commitment and discipline. It represents what you have learned and how you have grown," he told graduates.
Speaking at the undergraduate commencement ceremonies was Dr. Atul Gawande, Athens native and a highly respected expert on healthcare reform who served as a senior health policy advisor in the Clinton Administration in the 1990s.
Gawande met with applause, upon admitting his "townie" roots. Despite the high poverty rates and low educational attainment in the region, Gawande said his experiences growing up near Ohio University's campus taught him the "core American idea that anything is possible in people's lives and no one should be counted out."
“There’s the usual advice about these matters: Work hard; don’t make money or power your goal; make a difference. I tried lots of things before I came upon the odd mix of work I now do,” he said.
Gawande told the audience that simple advice was not enough to help them reach success and happiness. He then encouraged graduates to strive for life's two satisfactions: the satisfaction of mastering a skill and the satisfaction from human connection.
Both of these satisfactions, skills and people, have worked to bring the graduates to this special day, said Gawande.
"You have done a difficult and remarkable thing," he said. "But we also come together because you remind us that anything is possible in this life. No one should be counted out, especially not you."
McDavis and Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit bestowed on Gawande the honorary degree Doctor of Public Service during the morning ceremony.
“Thank you for finally getting to wear Bobcat green,” said Gawande on receiving his honor.
The power of perseverance
In OHIO tradition, commencement also marked an opportunity to hear from standout students from the University's distinguished academic community.
The morning ceremony heard from Student Senate President Jesse Neader on perseverance in the face of adversity.
Neader told graduates that his college experience is a testament to the power of perseverance, "graduating today in spite of being told that with a learning disability, college wasn't for me."
He bid graduates to repurpose what was meant to obstruct and oppress for the greater good.
"Use your passion and commitment to redirect and reach your goals… The way we understand the world continues to change to this day, and we are the change agents," he said.
McDavis recognized the contributions and leadership of several departing faculty and staff, including Executive Dean of Regional Higher Education Dan Evans, Dean of the Scripps College of Communication Gregory Shepherd and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Benjamin Ogles.
At the afternoon ceremony, McDavis also paid tribute to attending Presidential Teachers Harvey Ballard and Nancy Tatarek. Ballard serves as an associate professor of environmental and plant biology, while Tatarek is an associate professor of sociology and anthropology.
Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi were also on hand to recognize the University's Outstanding Senior Leaders.
The award annually recognizes stand-out seniors for their involvement in the University and Athens communities. This year's recipients are: Robert Bender, Nicole Grams, Brittany Hills, Sarah Kelly, Ashley Laber, Michael Logue, Christopher Mills, Jesse Neader and Lacey Rogers.
This year's commencement exercises also marked the first year that students from the four-year program, the bachelor's of science of nursing (BSN), graduated.
An OHIO family
Chair of the Alumni Board of Directors Arlene Greenfield welcomed graduates into the family of Ohio University alumni during her address at the morning ceremony.
"After today you begin a new phase in your relationship with Ohio University and all of the special people you met and will meet along the way…When you leave the Convocation Center today, you join a worldwide connection of nearly 200,000 living alumni. Your OHIO family – a foundation which forms a vast network to help and support you as you continue to pursue your personal and professional dreams," she said.
McDavis echoed these sentiments as he conferred upon graduates their respective degrees and thereby adjourned Ohio University's 257th commencement.
"I feel absolute accomplishment; it's what you've been waiting for. Now it's just the next step," said management information systems graduate Charity Helle, as she exited the Convocation Center.
As the students, mortarboards in hand, streamed into the Convocation Center parking lot after the morning ceremony, they saw that the clouds had dissipated, leaving a bright, blue sky.
"When OU beat Georgetown in March Madness. That was crazy…Favorite memory right there."
–Tyler Kooser, mechanical engineering
"I was in the tae-kwon-do club, and that was a blast. I met a lot of people there. I got my black belt there. That was my group of friends and the activity I chose to do."
–Laura Service, journalism
"Late nights in the studio in interior architecture."
–Katie Ehrbar, interior architecture
"The experience I had with my professors and classmates. It made for so many memories. The community aspect of Athens was great. It really helped being able to interact with them."
–Sara Russell, graphic design
"My two best friends. I didn't grow up with sisters, and I gained two while I was here."
–Samantha Scott, accounting
"I've definitely matured and just learned more about myself and my strengths and weaknesses. So I'm excited to go out there into the real world."
"I feel like Ohio University turned me into a conceptual artist. Throughout classes, it wasn't just about aesthetics; it was about the meaning behind it. I feel great that I came here."
Click on the links below to read up on stand-out graduates in the Class of 2011.
Lights! Camera! Graduate!
A second chance: Cancer-survivor Ryan Graham graduates on time
Brazilian student reflects on financial struggles en route to graduation
OHIO HTC senior gets head start on the job hunt
MPA students earn first degree from Voinovich School