Graduate Commencement-1

Mallory Metts takes a selfie with India Meeks and Scotty McKinnie before the start of Ohio University’s Graduate Commencement ceremony Friday morning.

Photographer: Jonathan Adams

Graduate Commencement-2

Aimee Edmondson, the 2013 Outstanding Graduate Faculty Member and assistant professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, delivers the keynote address at OHIO’s Graduate Commencement.

Photographer: Jonathan Adams

Graduate Commencement-3

Indigo Goodson celebrates after receiving her degree during Ohio University’s Graduate Commencement ceremony on Friday.

Photographer: Jonathan Adams

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Graduate Commencement speaker tells graduates to become Athenians

France named Distinguished Professor, Vander Ven is Outstanding Graduate Faculty Member

Ohio University conferred about 1,000 graduate degrees during its 2014 Graduate Commencement ceremony Friday morning in the Convocation Center.

Commencement speaker Aimee Edmondson, the 2013 Outstanding Graduate Faculty Member and assistant professor in the Ohio University E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, urged the graduates to become Athenians and not Visigoths.

After extolling the virtues of the Athenians who lived in Greece more than 2,500 years ago, she told the graduates [who she labeled current Athenians] that they too can contribute to the world in the areas of art, politics, literature and language like their namesakes.

She said that while the Athenians were making history in a positive way, the Visigoths became known as crude, brutal and ruthless conquerors who lacked depth and didn't leave a significant history in the areas of science, theater, logic or poetry.

"They were happy burning books and buildings and ushered in the Dark Ages," Edmondson said. "Like the Athenians, they disappeared and it would take Europe 1,000 years to recover from their rampages."

Edmondson cautioned graduates that it is more difficult to become an Athenian because you have learn how to become one. She said that is why there are more Visigoths than Athenians. She joked that the Visigoths were the ones who probably created reality TV.

"To be an Athenian is to hold knowledge and the quest for knowledge in high esteem," she said. "To contemplate, to reason, to experiment, to question – these are to an Athenian the most exalted activities a person can perform. To a Visigoth, the quest for knowledge is useless unless it can help you earn money or gain power over other people.

"You must strive to live the Athenian way, brimming with intellectual curiosity and enterprise," Edmondson added. "You must embark on a quest of lifelong learning, and this is just the beginning on this day of days for you who are about to receive your degrees."

Edmondson went on to recognize six graduates (Nihal Said, Kelly Ferguson, Naeem Gul, Jamie Linscott, Carey Goodman, Christian "Rico" Sagardia) who she said were already Athenians because of their contributions to society before she shared 10 tips for success in life:

  1. There's no such thing as too smart.
  2. See the world.
  3. When you take one in the teeth, get up off the dirt.
  4. Ask good questions
  5. Be a Tigger not an Eeyore. In other words, become a raging optimist.
  6. Engage in the political process.
  7. Read a good book.
  8. Have specific dreams. Expect problems and look forward to solving them.
  9. Work hard at a job you love.
  10. Discover the lost art of the thank you note. Write them often.


Edmondson concluded her speech by quoting writer George Saunders who said in regards to attaining a college degree, "You have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever."  

Christopher France named 2014 Distinguished Professor

President Roderick J. McDavis bestowed the 2014 Distinguished Professor Award on Christopher France, professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The prestigious Distinguished Professor award was established in 1959 and recognizes scholarly accomplishment, professional reputation and contribution to the University.

With the honor, France will receive a lifetime designation, one semester of academic leave and the privilege of naming one undergraduate student annually to receive a distinguished professor scholarship.

McDavis said France is being recognized for his outstanding scholarship and widespread contribution in the fields of health psychology and behavioral medicine. He noted France's pioneering research on the relationship between risk for hypertension and decreased pain perception, which spearheaded the development of a novel model of blood pressure and pain regulation.

"Dr. France's findings have deeply impacted pain assessment and pain treatment, and his research has led to enhancements in the blood donation experience," McDavis said.

France's research has brought in almost $7 million in grants during his 23 years at Ohio University, and he is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, Society of Behavioral Medicine, International Organization of Psychophysiology and the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research.

Thomas Vander Ven named 2014 Outstanding Graduate Faculty Member

Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit bestowed the honor of Outstanding Graduate Faculty Member on Thomas Vander Ven, professor of sociology and anthropology and director of criminology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award was established in 1972 to recognize a professor who has demonstrated exemplary performance as an instructor, researcher and faculty member. As the newest recipient, Vander Ven will replace Edmondson as the Graduate Commencement speaker next May.

Benoit said Vander Ven is revered by graduate and undergraduate students alike on account of his thought-provoking approach and interactive teaching on topics ranging from crime and delinquency to the sociology of alcohol.

"Dr. Vander Ven's 2011 study of social alcohol use on college campuses has contributed to greater understanding of why alcohol abuse occurs and how it can be prevented or mitigated," Benoit said.

She said that Vander Ven's graduate student nominators noted his engaging seminars and tireless efforts to transition graduate students into professional researchers through co-authorship opportunities.

Vander Ven's other notable professional honors are the Outstanding University College Advocate Award, College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teacher Award and the University Professor Award.

Honorary Degrees conferred to Russ College alumnus and Botswana ambassador

The University awarded honorary doctoral degrees to alumnus Raymon B. Fogg Sr. and Ambassador to the United States for Botswana Tebelelo Mazile Seretse.

Fogg, who earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Ohio University in 1953, was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his innovation, entrepreneurship and humanitarianism.

As the founder of Cleveland-based Fogg Building Methods, Fogg earned a reputation as one of Northeast Ohio's premier commercial builders over the past 55 years. His company has built more than 5,000 buildings, many of which he designed himself. He also has provided emergency medical transportation, relief supplies and construction management services to many needy communities around the world, sometimes on one-man flight missions in his Cessna 310 airplane after natural disasters.

Fogg has been extremely generous to Ohio University. He was the fourth-largest donor to the Russ College of Engineering and Technology during the Bicentennial Campaign and also has served as a trustee of the Foundation Board as well as a member of many other boards within the Russ College.

"Your gift for development is remarkable, but your building ingenuity far exceeds bricks and mortar," Benoit said. "Through your passion, generosity and personal sacrifice, you are building inroads for the innovators of tomorrow."

Fogg thanked the University for honoring him and offered a few words of advice for the graduates. "Strive to find ways to give back, because that's when the real rewards are realized," he said.

Seretse, the first woman ambassador to the U.S. from Botswana, was honored for being an influential human rights advocate and champion of economic development through education.

Benoit said Seretse, a lawyer, economist and accountant by trade, has been committed to equality and elevating women into positions of authority, as well as the expansion and accessibility of education for all Botswana citizens.

"You have championed the relationship between Ohio University and Botswana, acting as a catalyst in creating and expanding opportunities for faculty and students," Benoit said. "Nowhere is it more apparent than the latest memorandum of understanding between the University of Botswana and Ohio University."

Seretse said she was honored to be chosen to receive an Honorary Doctor of Public Service from Ohio University and will work to live up to the University's expectations of her.

"With the development of the Diamond Trading Company in Botswana we have been able to provide free education for our young people at universities and provide free health care," Seretse said. "Do not be limited by the borders. According to IMS Health, the fastest-growing economies are in Africa … we walk on the shoulders of those who have come before us and we wish the relationship between Ohio University and Botswana will someday make Botswana a country of excellence."