By Kim Corriher
This weekend, some 3,250 Bobcats will trade the rally towels and pompoms they usually sport at the Convocation Center for mortarboards and tassels as Ohio University hosts commencement ceremonies for undergraduate, master's and doctoral degree candidates.
While for most the ceremonies on Friday and Saturday will serve as the grand finale of their time as Ohio University students, it is just the beginning of a longer-term relationship with the university.
During Saturday's two undergraduate ceremonies, the newest alumni of Ohio's oldest public university will be greeted by two of their own in President Roderick J. McDavis, who received a bachelor's degree in education from Ohio University in 1970, and Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Peter King, a 1979 journalism grad who will deliver the commencement address at the 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. undergraduate ceremonies.
"I'm extremely proud to say that I've earned a degree from Ohio University," said senior Jessie Ford, who will earn a degree in visual communication.
Ford is a native of Chillicothe, Ohio, and part of the first class of Gates Scholarship winners, an initiative started four years ago by Chillicothe residents Larry A. and Mary Gates. The program encourages Ross County high school graduates to continue their education by providing scholarship funds renewable for all four years of undergraduate work.
While recipients are not required to attend Ohio University, Ford said there was never any doubt that she was destined for Athens.
"Ohio University is the only school I applied to; it was the only school I wanted to attend," she said. "I am sad to be leaving Athens, but I know that my time here has prepared me well for the rest of my life."
For many of this year's soon-to-be graduates, the rite of passage will mark not only the distinct achievement of earning a degree from the first public institution of higher learning in the old Northwest Territory, but also their connection to a significant moment in the university's history.
The Class of 2008 is the first spend all four years at Ohio University under the leadership of President Roderick J. McDavis, who took over as the university's top executive in August 2004. McDavis is the 20th president in the school's 204-year history and only the second to graduate from the institution.
"I think when our class looks back on our time here, we will remember how much President McDavis was really one of us," said Lynn Walsh. As Senior Class Council president, Walsh will deliver a welcome message on behalf of the class during Saturday morning's undergraduate ceremony.
"His being an alum himself really made a difference for me," she said. "It made me feel like I was at a university that had a president who could put himself in my shoes because he knew first-hand what it was like to be a student here, to live in Athens and to fall in love with OU."
Commencement celebrations in Athens began this past Saturday, when Ohio University's College of Osteopathic Medicine conferred degrees for 106 new physicians.
The ceremony for master's and doctoral students at 9:30 a.m. ceremony Friday, June 13, will feature a keynote address by Assistant Professor of Psychology Julie Owens, the 2007 Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award winner.
Owens joined Ohio University in fall 2001. Her research focuses on evidence-based assessment and treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, one of the most common childhood conditions.
The festivities continue Saturday, June 14, with the pair of ceremonies celebrating the achievements of some 2,765 undergraduate degree candidates across all Ohio University colleges and campuses.
They'll hear the perspective of King, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and football analyst for NBC Sports. He recently finished a five-year stint as managing editor of HBO's "Inside the NFL," which earned three Emmys as outstanding sports studio show during his tenure.
King appears as a commentator on radio and TV talk shows across the nation, including as an on-air reporter for NBC's "Football Night in America." He's a two-time winner of the Associated Press Sports Editors award for excellence in sports journalism and has authored five books. He also wrote the forward and much of the copy for Sports Illustrated's recent book "Brett Favre: The Tribute," which is on The New York Times' bestseller list.