2015 UG Commencement-1

Ohio University graduates proudly enter the Convocation Center for the afternoon Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 2.

Photographer: Rob Hardin

2015 UG Commencement-2

Ohio University alumnus and former Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell delivers the Commencement address during the morning Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 2.

Photographer: Rob Hardin

2015 UG Commencement-3

Ohio University Trustee Professor of English Samuel Crowl delivers the Commencement address during the afternoon Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 2.

Photographer: Rob Hardin

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OHIO celebrates its 200th class of graduates

Saturday, May 2, was a historic day on the Athens Campus as Ohio University celebrated its 200th Commencement and welcomed more than 3,200 undergraduates into the Bobcat alumni family.

It was a day of reflection on promises fulfilled and goals met, a day of gratitude for support received from family and friends as well as OHIO faculty and staff, and a day of new beginnings as the graduates ended one chapter of their lives and turned the page on the next.

“Graduates, this is your day,” Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis told a packed Convocation Center in welcoming the Class of 2015, guests and members of the OHIO community to both the morning and afternoon Commencement exercises. “Today, we honor your achievement, your commitment and your passion.”

President McDavis went on to reflect upon Thomas Ewing, one of OHIO's inaugural graduates who eventually became a U.S. senator, a secretary of the U.S. treasury and interior, and an advisor to four U.S. presidents.

“Thomas Ewing’s graduation from Ohio University served as a springboard for a life of impact,” Dr. McDavis said. “Two centuries later, his example continues to be a point of pride for our University community and an inspiration to the millions of graduates who have followed in his footsteps.

“Like Thomas Ewing,” he told the Class of 2015, “I hope that you will reach for the highest star as a graduate of Ohio University. Like Thomas Ewing, I hope that your Ohio University degree serves as a springboard for a life of impact. This is the journey we have prepared you for. This is the journey we celebrate today.”

A memorable morning

The morning Commencement ceremony celebrated 1,584 graduates from the College of Business, the College of Fine Arts, OHIO’s regional campuses, the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, the Scripps College of Communication and University College. Those graduates received some words of wisdom from another distinguished Ohio University alumnus: Keith Wandell.

A 1972 OHIO graduate who earned a degree in business administration, Wandell was named CEO of Harley-Davidson in May 2009, a position he retired from on Friday. Wandell assumed the reins of this 112-year-old, internationally-known brand in the midst of a nationwide financial crisis that hit the motorcycle business particularly hard. It was under his leadership that Harley-Davidson developed and implemented a strategy that transformed the company, restored its financial strength and positioned it for continued growth – efforts that earned Wandell the titles of PowerSports Executive of the Year in 2013 and The Milwaukee Business Journal’s Executive of the Year in 2011.

Wandell celebrated his first day of retirement from Harley-Davidson by returning to his alma mater to deliver Saturday morning’s Commencement keynote address in the same venue where he resided as a sophomore on the Athens Campus. For Wandell, this homecoming was particularly special.

“I did not get to attend the graduation ceremony at OU,” he explained. “I had finished classes and was off to a job. As the years went on, it was something that I sincerely regretted. Today fulfills one of my dreams – getting to participate in an Ohio University Commencement.”

Wandell reflected on some of the special memories he has of Ohio University, telling the Class of 2015, “Today represents one of those big moments in life.”

Commending the graduates on their accomplishments, hard work and perseverance, Wandell noted that the occasion was about much more than receiving a diploma and graduating from college.

“It is about our collective future,” he said. “It is about the next generation of leaders who are going to answer the higher calling of securing the future.”

He shared with the graduates some of the lessons he learned in life that helped to shape his career, telling them, “As you prepare to leave the cocoon of the college environment, you will soon realize that it is a big world, full of challenges, responsibilities and opportunities.”

As the graduates prepare for the future, Wandell encouraged them to really think about being a leader and what that means.

“Being a leader is what makes the difference between being good and being great,” he said. “It is about much more than serving your own personal needs. … It is about helping others achieve their dreams and providing an environment where others can grow and prosper.”

Wandell also highlighted the attributes of a true leader, the most important of which, he said, is integrity.

“There are no do-overs,” he told the graduates, noting how important integrity is in today’s digital world where some behavior and choices “are etched electronically forever for all to see.”

Integrity, Wandell said, results in trust, which is built upon transparency, fairness and consistency.

“It seems simple,” he said, “but I have found few do it well. If these attributes are not exhibited every time, every day, you will fail as a leader.”

Wandell offered the following advice to the Class of 2015:

  • Be authentic.
  • Be passionate about what you do.
  • Be accountable always – to yourself and to others.
  • Communicate clearly.
  • Never lose your sense of humor. “If you don’t have one,” he advised, “find one. You will need it!”

Wandell ended his speech by reflecting on one aspect of his career at Harley-Davidson, noting the phrase the company coined in the midst of the Great Recession: “The Other Side of Fear is Courage.”

“I would encourage you today not to fear what’s next but to meet every challenge with courage,” he said. “We still live in a world where fulfilling our dreams is possible. My sincere hope is that each and every one of you has bigger dreams than you have ever had and that you continue to work to fulfill those dream and to help others fulfill theirs as well.”

An unforgettable afternoon

The afternoon Commencement ceremony celebrated 1,693 graduates from the Honors Tutorial College, the Center for International Studies, the College of Health Sciences and Professions, the Patton College of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Prior to his remarks, Commencement speaker and Ohio University Trustee Professor of English Samuel Crowl was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his 44 years of service to Ohio University as a beloved professor, a devoted ambassador and a driving force behind many of the University’s institutional improvements.

Over the course of his esteemed career, Crowl has published six books and more than 40 articles and essays on stage and screen productions of Shakespeare’s works. In addition, he has engaged in many international teaching engagements, research projects, professorships and conferences, including the World Shakespeare Congress, the Shakespeare Institute, the International Globe Center, the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Columbia University Shakespeare seminar.

As the dean of OHIO’s University College, Crowl received the Program Excellence Award from the Ohio Board of Regents in 1990 for designing and implementing general education requirements that remain a part of the foundation of an Ohio University education. He has twice been selected by students for the prestigious University Professor Award for excellence in teaching. In addition, Crowl and his wife, Susan Crowl, were honored in 2007 with the founding of a funded professorship in their name.

“Your commitment to Ohio University’s student-centered learning community is evidenced by the progress achieved under your guidance,” said Pam Benoit, executive vice president and provost. “Your leadership as chair of Faculty Senate led to the passage of resolutions that established University College as we know it today. As dean of University College, you worked to further elevate the college’s status, while designing and implementing general education requirements that continue to serve as the blueprint for an Ohio University education.”

Benoit noted that beyond Crowl’s esteemed scholarship as an internationally recognized authority on Shakespeare, his greatest contribution to the OHIO community has been his impact on the lives of students and graduates.

“Your unwavering leadership, acclaimed scholarship and engaged teaching have earned you utmost distinction within the Ohio University community and the broader literary community,” Benoit said. “The scope of your service speaks to your profound love of learning and differentiates your career as one to be remembered.”

Crowl’s Commencement address touched upon the history of Ohio University and how alumni carry on the traditions set forth by OHIO’s first class exactly 200 years ago. In a sense, Crowl said, alumni belong to their college, and OHIO alumni “belong to a good one made special by the affection in which it is held by its graduates.”

“You have all learned some of the qualities and textures of the good life in your years here: brick streets, gentle hills, an opening to all of life, and a mighty thirst for knowledge and green beer,” Crowl said to laughs from the crowd. “Something in the casual, informal interaction between faculty and students creates an unusual atmosphere on this campus.”

Crowl shared the story of Manasseh Cutler’s role in the passing of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and, in turn, the founding of Ohio University. He described Cutler’s vision for a university and his foresight in seeing that education would be crucial to the success of democracy and the nation as it expanded westward.

“You, and your university, are a product of Cutler’s visionary spirit,” Crowl said. “Carry it proudly with you as you move out into the world from this historic and handsome campus.”

A noted Shakespeare scholar and expert, Crowl fittingly concluded his address with one of the playwright’s most famous lines, encouraging the graduates to join in a chorus of, “To be or not to be? That is the question.”

That famous metaphysical inquiry is actually answered by Hamlet, Crowl explained, in a conversation with Horatio later in the play.

“What Hamlet has come to understand is that he’s been tying himself into knots trying to out-anticipate life,” Crowl said. “Don’t try to wrestle a sea of troubles into submission simply by the power of your own ego as it can respond with a powerful undertow. … Find the rhythm for you. Go with the flow. And when the flow turns in your direction, seize the day. The readiness is all. Let be.”  

Comments from the Class of 2015

Saturday’s Commencement ceremonies marked a profound moment in the graduates’ lives as they ended their undergraduate journey at OHIO and begin new relationships with their alma mater as members of the Bobcat alumni family.

“Today means everything to me,” said Cody Linn, who graduated with a degree in journalism. “I’m only the second in my family to graduate from college.”

Among Linn’s fondest memories at OHIO are the many athletic events he attended as an undergraduate – a tradition he will continue next fall when he enters the graduate program at the Scripps College of Communication.

“Today means a lot to me because it’s been such a long journey,” said Rebecca Gierhart, who was graduating with a degree in music education after five years at Ohio University. “The end is in sight, and it’s become all too real.”

A proud member of OHIO’s Marching 110 who will be doing student-teaching in the fall at Marion Harding High School near her hometown, Gierhart is already making plans to return to the Athens Campus. She plans on performing in the alumni band during next October’s Homecoming festivities. “The hotel room has already been booked,” she said.

One of Gierhart’s friends and a fellow music education graduate, Jessica Lipscomb is preparing to take on a new role at Ohio University. This fall, she will be doing student-teaching at OHIO’s Eastern Campus.

“Today just means so much to me,” Lipscomb said. “It’s weird that four years have gone by so quickly.”

Lance Jackson, who will be staying on the Athens Campus this summer to complete his final courses in civil engineering, is already pursuing job opportunities in construction management and structural engineering.

“Today is just the reward for four years of hard work for me,” he said. “Today we recognize the hard work we have all put in and the opening of a new chapter in our lives.”

Marlise Baldwin, who earned a degree in communication studies, a minor in customer service and a certificate in diversity, will be leaving Ohio to pursue a career at Indiana University in Bloomington where her aunt, a fellow OHIO alumna, works.

“For me, today is all about success, family and faith,” she said. “Without my family and God, there would be no success.”

A fellow Scripps graduate, Robin Hecker will be heading north this summer to intern with The Sandusky Register.

“Today just feels really good,” Hecker, a photojournalism major, said. “There were times during my OHIO journey that I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. Standing here today is both surreal and in some ways a little sad, but I stand here knowing I’ve accomplished something and that my future is bright.”

“Today marks the culmination of four years of hard work,” said Joey Viola, a video production major who is hoping to find out next week whether he’s landed a communications project management position with a Columbus-based company. “Today is a day when we count our lucky stars, thank those who helped us along the way, and reflect on our time at Ohio University.”

“I’m in Athens for the first time this weekend since I completed my degree online,” said Beverly Helms, a graduate of the RN to BSN program and a supervisor at Toledo Hospital. “It’s so beautiful here. Being here is a huge achievement; it’s something I’ve looked forward to for a long time.”

“Today represents the beginning; a literal commencement,” said English major Alex Terlecky. “We have accomplished something today, and now we’re ready to move on to something greater.”