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OHIO alumna Cheryl Hurley, founder of the Library of America, receives an honorary degree at the 2016 Graduate Commencement ceremony.

OHIO alumna Cheryl Hurley, founder of the Library of America, receives an honorary degree at the 2016 Graduate Commencement ceremony.

Photographer: Ben Siegel

Jennie Daniels is all smiles as she receives her MBA at Graduate Commencement.

Jennie Daniels is all smiles as she receives her MBA at Graduate Commencement.

Photographer: Ben Siegel

Yearry Pansi Setianto (left) and Animesh Singh Rathore (right) are recognized for earning their doctoral degrees in mass communications.

Yearry Panji Setianto (left) and Animesh Singh Rathore (right) are recognized for earning their doctoral degrees in mass communications.

Photographer: Ben Siegel

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Faculty and alumna receive prestigious awards at Graduate Commencement

Alexander Govorov and Judith Yaross Lee named 2016 Distinguished Professors


Ohio University conferred more than 750 graduate degrees during its 2016 Graduate Commencement ceremony Friday morning in the Convocation Center on the Athens Campus.

President Roderick J. McDavis opened his remarks by thanking the faculty members in the audience for their creativity, passion and dedication. 

“You have prepared this next generation of thinkers, leaders, scholars and innovators to succeed in their chosen fields,” President McDavis said. “Thank you for all you do each and every day and for your commitment to our students, these graduates and Ohio University.”

Later in the ceremony, he congratulated the graduates for achieving their personal milestones.

“Your graduation truly represents what lives within you,” President McDavis said. “Passion, determination and hope brought you to this moment. Whatever your path, each of you has brought unique characteristics and special talents to Ohio University and you have made our university richer by your presence.” 

Risa Whitson presented 2016 Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award

Pam Benoit, executive vice president and provost, announced the first award of the ceremony. She presented the 2016 Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award to Risa Whitson, associate professor in the Department of Geography and the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. 

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. One of the perks of winning the award is serving as the Graduate Commencement speaker the following year.

Whitson’s research focuses on the social geographies of gender, work and social reproduction. More specifically, she studies how nonstandard labor relations constitute an important element of changing economic structures and gender performances, primarily in Argentina. She has published numerous articles in top-ranked journals and has taught upper-level courses in social geography, gender and development and global feminisms for more than 10 years.

Benoit also applauded Whitson for her commitment to graduate students and graduate education and said that was one of the reasons she is this year’s recipient.

Alexander Govorov and Judith Yaross Lee named 2016 Distinguished Professors

Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit announced that the 2016 Distinguished Professor Awards have been bestowed on Alexander Govorov, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Judith Yaross Lee, professor of communication studies and director of Honors Tutorial Studies in the Scripps College of Communication. 

Both recipients were out of the country on Friday and could not attend the ceremony. Govorov was visiting a research institute in Germany in a prearranged trip and Yaross Lee is a Fulbright Scholar who is spending the spring semester as a senior professor of American culture at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Govorov was chosen because of his outstanding work with the optical and thermal properties of nanocrystals and nanomaterials. He has been lauded for his work on how nanocrystals interact with light and heat energies. 

Benoit said his ideas about the physics at the nanometer scale have been implemented in many experimental laboratories around the world.

Yaross Lee, a two-time recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Faculty Teacher Award, is widely respected for her research on the meanings attributed to American experiences at the intersection of media, political, intellectual and social history. 

Benoit said she is internationally recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on American humor, most notably Mark Twain.

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

With the honor, both recipients 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.


Cheryl Hurley presented honorary doctorate of letters degree

The final presentation during the ceremony went to alumna Cheryl Hurley, who earned her bachelor’s degree in English in 1969. She is the founder of the Library of America, a nonprofit publishing house and cultural institution. 

Benoit said Hurley has guided the curation and publication of more than 300 volumes widely recognized as the definitive collection of American writing.

“Ms. Hurley works to cultivate the love of reading in people of all backgrounds,” Benoit said.

During her acceptance speech, Hurley said she was “delighted and honored” to accept the honorary degree.

“An award like this not only honors the recipient, it honors the field of endeavor of the recipient,” Hurley said. “I’m here then as the poster child for the liberal arts and humanities. My OHIO education in the liberal arts led to my career at the Library of America and the opportunity to help preserve, publish and celebrate America’s great writing.”

Hurley also credited Ohio University for making her a lifelong reader.

“You’ve all been immersed in reading for your degree, but don’t forget to read for yourself,” Hurley said. “I encourage you all to discover the pleasure and enlightenment that can come from reading our very best writers, whether your taste runs to fiction, poetry, essays, history and many other genres.” 

Ohio University Board of Trustees Chair Sandra Anderson closed the ceremony by reminding the graduates of the quote carved on the back of the University’s Alumni Gateway.

“So depart that daily thou mayest better serve thy fellow men, thy country, and thy God,” Anderson said. “It is with that charge that we bid you farewell and congratulate you, the members of the Class of 2016, on this most significant milestone.”