Andy Alexander

OHIO alumnus Andy Alexander delivers the keynote speech during morning undergraduate commencement exercises on Saturday, May 4.

Photographer: Benjamin Wirtz Siegel

President McDavis

President Roderick J. McDavis introduces distinguished guests during the ceremonies.

Photographer: Chris Franz

Ryan Lombardi

Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi introduced winners of Outstanding Student Leader Awards.

Photographer: Chris Franz

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Look out world—here comes the class of 2013

Ohio University sent the class of 2013 into the world during its 259th undergraduate commencement exercises on Saturday.

Degrees from the colleges of Business and Fine Arts, University College, Russ College of Engineering and Technology, Scripps College of Communication and regional campuses were conferred in the 9 a.m. ceremony. Degrees from the colleges of Arts and Sciences and Health Sciences and Professions, the Patton College of Education, Honors Tutorial College and the Center for International Studies were conferred in the 2 p.m. ceremony. In all, nearly 3,300 undergraduates walked across the stage in both ceremonies.

“Every one of you can give your time”

Keynote speaker Andy Alexander drew on his own experiences as an Ohio University undergraduate and as an alumnus—and poked a little fun at his own expense in the process. He recalled being much more devoted to his work as a reporter for the Post than to his classes, crediting former Scripps School of Journalism Director Ralph Izard for getting him to complete his degree. And he compared his gig as commencement speaker to that of Ohio State University: President Barack Obama.

But he became serious as he spoke of the unique relationship OHIO graduates have to their alma mater. 

“In a year, get in touch with your friends who graduated from Ohio State or Bowling Green, and ask them if they want to revisit their college town, and they’ll probably say, ‘Not really,’” he said. “Then ask your friends from OU. Damn near every one of our alumni is sentimental about this place.”

That connection is an invitation to give back to the institution, he said. 

“Money is important, but I’m talking about painless things you can do that require nothing more than your time,” he said. Joining an alumni board, mentoring a current student, or meeting with a prospective student are all ways that new OHIO alumni, who are just starting their careers, can support the University, he said.

And when you do have the means, Alexander said, then by all means give money. He and his wife established a scholarship for minority students studying in the journalism school.

“I have interviewed world leaders, written stories that have put people in jail, and covered the news in places where history was unfolding before me,” he said. “Nothing is is more thrilling than using a contact to help a student get a job or being there when a student wins a scholarship and you realize that without it, that student might not be able to go to college.”

Alexander referred to scientific studies that link altruism and involvement in youth to higher rates of self-esteem and happiness later in life. 

“Every one of you can give your time,” he said.

Alexander, BSJ ‘72, began his career while still at OHIO, writing for The Post and interning with the Melbourne (Australia) Herald, covering the Vietnam War and the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He spent much of journalism career with Cox Newspapers, rising to become the chain’s bureau chief, overseeing staffs in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Under his tenure, the Washington Bureau shared the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. He currently is Scripps Howard Distinguished Visiting Professional in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

“How have you spent your dash?”

Attendees of both the morning and afternoon exercises also heard from recipients of the 2013 Outstanding Student Leader Awards—including Zachary George, president of Student Senate, who spoke during the morning ceremony. George received a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Ironically, on a day usually focused on achievements, George spoke of failure, saluting OHIO as a place where students can learn to learn from mistakes.

“My time here at Ohio University has been full of failures,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a resounding NO from the world to retrain your perspective on how you are leading your life. And I would like to thank Ohio University for being that world to me, where I could live and learn through those failures.”

George ended his remarks with a poem titled “The Dash,” referring to the punctuation mark that separates the year this class entered Ohio University and the year they leave it: 2009–2013. It asks students to reflect on their time at OHIO and how it will affect their futures.

“So on this day when life at OU is over/With all your life’s actions to rehash/Would you be proud of the things they say/About how you have spent YOUR dash?” he recited.

Other Outstanding Student Leaders recognized during the ceremonies were Kayla Hardimon, Drew Hudson, Laura Hyde, Hilary N. Johnson, Thomas McKenzie, Madisen Medley, Danielle Parker and Amelia Shaw.

In his remarks, Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis saluted all soon-to-be graduates for their hard work.

“Today, we honor you—your achievement, your commitment, and your passion,” he said.

Those honors extended to three outstanding full-time tenured faculty, who were nominated by OHIO students, faculty and alumni for the Presidential Teaching Award. McDavis announced his selections during commencement exercises: Julia Paxton, associate professor of economics, College of Arts and Sciences; Katarzyna Marciniak, professor of English; and Brian Hoyt, professor of business management technology on the Lancaster campus.

“It’s important for my kids to see this day”

For some students, this exercise packed less of a wallop less than their high school graduations just four years ago. 

"There are so many people," said Hannah Kelly, who received a degree in graphic design. Her graduating class in Baltimore, Ohio, had just 80 students. "We all knew each other," she said. "This is a big day, but it's not as emotional as high school."

Gary Swingy of Ashland, Kentucky, had other things on his mind than walking. 

"I'm more concerned about moving out of my house," he confessed. The video production major isn't worried about the job market, either. "No matter how bad the economy is, they'll always make TV."

But for others, Commencement remained an hugely symbolic ritual. Ursula Parchment of Dayton won't complete her bachelor's degree in criminal justice until December, but she walked Saturday anyway. The single mother of two is in the eLearning program.

"I'm one of only three people in my family to earn a degree," she said. "It's important for my kids to see this day."

Overheard at the portal

Graduating students had a long walk from the staging area under the Convocation Center, through windowless corridors, before emerging at one of four portals onto the Convo floor. Here are some of the comments overheard as some students reached Portal 1, to the left of the podium.

  • "My parents told me where they were sitting..."
  • "Here we go!"
  • "(Gasp!)"
  • "Ohmigod, there it is."
  • "My mouth tastes like the desert."
  • (On the phone) "OK, just a second ... now, I'm walking through now."
  • "Oh oh oh I just got really nervous."
  • "It's the light at the end of the tunnel, like the end of our college careers."
  • "We made it!"