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An ending that marks many bright beginnings
Ohio University awards more than 3,000 bachelor's, associate degrees

June 9, 2007
By Tom Bosco and Mary Alice Casey

Photos by Rick FaticaWhat do the most recent Ohio University graduates wear? On Saturday, they donned colorful honor cords that celebrated academic achievement. And star-shaped sunglasses. And mortarboards that bore messages of thanks to Mom and Dad or hinted at future careers. And red high heels.

But above all, the more than 3,000 who marched in separate morning and afternoon ceremonies in the university's Convocation Center sported Bobcat pride.

A long, tight hug was exchanged after Brittany Metoyer of Columbus walked out the Convo and into the arms of her mother, Angela. Brittany's bachelor of business administration degree is the first college degree earned by a Metoyer family member, and she fought back tears trying to sum up how she felt. "Too much," she said. Her next stop is Greece, where she will participate in the university's Global Competitiveness Program before backpacking across Europe.

"I'm so proud," Angela Metoyer said, noting her daughter's commitment and focus. "She's my hero."

Lauren Flowers and Shaylyn Cochran. Photos by Rick FaticaBrandon Botschner knows his future is taking off, too. The aviation graduate from Beavercreek, Ohio, is on his way to a job as a pilot and instructor for US Airways Express in Dayton. He decorated his mortarboard with lights and a model helicopter.

"I'll remember the people and my friends the most from my four years here," he said. "The school has definitely given me the tools to fly planes, and the aviation program is so good."

Graduates of the colleges of Business, Communication, Fine Arts, and Engineering and Technology as well as University College and regional campuses took part in the 9:30 a.m. ceremony, while those earning degrees from Arts and Sciences, Education, Health and Human Services, and Honors Tutorial College marched into the Convo at 2 p.m.

Dr. Jennie S. Hwang, president of H-Technologies Group near Cleveland, addressed both groups of graduates. A successful entrepreneur, corporate executive, adviser, author and international speaker, she is credited, among other innovations, with making cell phones and computers faster, smaller and more powerful. 

Dr. Jennie S. Hwang photo by Rick Fatica"As we move further toward a digital world, we face a different environment, one that is both challenging and exciting," she told the graduates. "If I were to pick the top two characteristics of this new environment, they would be uncertainty and change. We must tackle the uncertainty and change with flexibility and innovation. 

"But, with this challenge, comes opportunity," she added, sharing the quandary of Sony engineers who, in the early 1990s, were challenged by their boss to create a smaller video camera. "He said, 'Dunk it in a bucket of water; if bubbles come out, there is still room to trim the design.' The engineers went on and created a phenomenal camcorder the size of a passport.

"So meet a challenge head-on; and go for creativity and innovation, no matter what field you will be entering," she urged.

The speaker was among four individuals receiving honorary degrees at Saturday's ceremonies. 

In addition to Dr. Hwang, who received an honorary doctor of the science degree, the morning ceremony recipient was Dr. Thanu Kulachol, who was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. He was honored for nearly 20 years of leadership as president of Bangkok University. Recently retired, he has maintained a 30-year association with Ohio University that has provided educational opportunities for students of both schools. 

Receiving honorary degrees at the afternoon ceremony were Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, who was granted a doctor of public service degree, and Dr. John Light, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Kao, president and founder of the University of Cambodia, earned master's degrees in political science and international affairs from Ohio University in 1991. He is pursuing the development of several collaborative programs between the University of Cambodia and Ohio University that allow participants to share ideas, scholars and cultures. 

Photos by Rick FaticaLight has served as president of nearby Hocking College for nearly 40 years, the longest of any higher education institution president in Ohio. He founded the college in 1968 and has transformed it into one of the state's best schools for students seeking degrees from technical and service programs. Hocking College is working with Ohio University to create a clear path for its graduates in designated programs to earn four-year degrees from the Athens campus.

The ceremonies - punctuated by occasional shouts of "I love OU!" and "OU, oh yeah" - offered a perfect mix of decorum and enthusiasm, tradition and individuality. The graduates cheered for their faculty and shouted their gratitude when urged to rise and recognize the contributions of their loved ones.

Graduating senior Lauren Hanny sang the national anthem and "Alma Mater, Ohio" at the morning commencement before being conferred her bachelor of fine arts degree. The Canton native called the opportunity the highlight of her four years at Ohio.

"It's such a rush, performing in front of so many people," she said after singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." Would she be able to get through the alma mater without emotion? "I don't know," she said, laughing. "I have to. It's a professional thing." 

Hanny performed the song flawlessly and is now off to a teaching job in Delaware, Ohio.

The vocalist at the afternoon ceremony was no stranger to singing at graduation. A faculty member in the School of Music from 1979 to 1993, the Rev. Edward Payne sang at all 14 commencements during his time here. Saturday's ceremony was particularly special: His daughter Monica earned a degree in English literature.

Allison Kempf and Stephanie Licata. Photo by Rick Fatica"I'm proud of him and really excited," Monica Payne said. "I know it was something he really wanted to do; he's been talking about it since last year."

Payne, now an Episcopal priest, said his time as a faculty member left him with warm memories. "It's as if I'm an alumnus," he said, "but I'm not."

His daughter, however, now is an alum (as is son Kevin, who graduated in 1996). Monica's next adventure will be with the Peace Corps as an English teacher in Northern Africa, Eastern Europe or Western Asia.

Student Senate President Morgan Allen addressed the morning graduates, heeding the instructions she was given to "be brief, be honest and be seated." 

She said she'd heard before arriving on campus that college students are thirsty and foolish, but what she found at OU is that they are thirsty for friendship and knowledge and foolish enough to be unsatisfied with the status quo. "We are forever Bobcats," she said, "and may we forever be thirsty and foolish."

At the afternoon ceremony, Senior Class President David Trinnes opened his remarks by urging his classmates to remember that moment and exactly how they felt. He then took a photo of the class from the podium. "I'll be sure to tag everyone on Facebook," he joked.

Doug Peterson photo by Rick FaticaHis advice to his fellow graduates: "Stand up for what you believe in. Make a difference. I can tell you that doing so has been one of the most meaningful, rewarding things I have ever experienced."

Dennis Minichello, a 1974 alumnus, spoke briefly at both ceremonies as a representative of the Ohio University Alumni Association board. "Come back and visit from time to time. Give your advice. And please think about what you can do for the students of Ohio University," he told the graduates.

Before conferring their degrees, President Roderick J. McDavis - who presided over both ceremonies - offered his thoughts.

"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," he said.

"Henry David Thoreau once said, "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.' Your college education," McDavis told the graduates, "is the foundation for your castle in the sky.

"I want to leave you with a final quote from the back of the Alumni Gateway, the side that you have seen many times as you exit main campus: 'So depart that daily thou mayest better serve thy fellowmen, thy country and thy God.' It is with that charge that we bid you farewell, and congratulate you," McDavis added to a roar of celebration from the graduates. 

Music therapy group photo by Rick FaticaAfter descending from the stage, the new graduates ran a gauntlet of their professors, who congratulated them as they streamed out of the Convo.

"It's emotional," said School of Theater Director Bob St. Lawrence, who hugged and shook hands with graduates. "You've known these kids for four years, in some cases five. It's gratifying to be there with them as they end their time here."

While undergraduates had the limelight Saturday, some 600 master's and doctoral candidates took part in Friday's graduate commencement ceremony, and 102 new physicians participated in the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine's graduation exercises on June 2.

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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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