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Fall Commencement attracts about 650 graduates

Charles Smith tells graduates to change the world with their voice and vision

On Saturday, Ohio University held its first Fall Commencement Ceremony since the 1960s as about 650 undergraduate and graduate students had their degrees conferred.

President Roderick J. McDavis told the graduates that with the new calendar year in sight, this was a very fitting time to celebrate new beginnings.

"Today marks the first day of a new chapter in your lives," McDavis said. "As with any new beginning, this is both thrilling and terrifying. Rest assured, we have equipped you well for the journey ahead. Your presence here today is proof that you possess the knowledge to excel in your chosen fields."

The keynote speaker was 2010 Distinguished Professor Charles Smith, head of the University's Professional Playwriting Program and the Ohio University Presidential Research Scholar in Arts and Humanities.

Smith told the graduates that although his job as commencement speaker is to inspire them, they don't need inspiration from him. He said he wouldn't ask them to go find their place in this world because the truth is that there is no place waiting for them and if there was it's not a place they want to be.

"If there is a reserved place out there for you today, it's a place created by someone else and anyplace created by someone else is a place you're going to have to fit yourself into," Smith said.

Smith said Cinderella's stepsisters cut their toes off to fit into Cinderella's slipper, a space that was created by someone else.

"My advice to you today is to not go out and chop off your toes," Smith said. "Voice and vision is one thing that makes each and every one of us unique."

Smith said the simple process of listening and repeating what you have heard involves the intake of information, the processing of it through a filter made up of your individual experiences and education and coming up with your own unique voice and vision.

"Philosophy whispers an idea into the ear of science, which then processes that idea using its own vernacular and point of view, then repeats that idea out loud, but because the idea has been processed, the idea is now new, different and evolved," Smith said.

Smith told the graduates that they face tremendous challenges in the world such as social and political inequality, a rapidly changing world economy, a country that is in a perpetual state of war and the monumental challenge of climate change.

He told them that although their degree area may not directly address any of these challenges, they should know that their individual voice and vision can indirectly affect them all.

"If you leave here looking for your place in the world … then you will simply blend into the woodwork and become part of the status quo," Smith said. "But if you understand that your individual voice and vision are unique and if you listen carefully to the collective consciousness of our world, then process it through your filter of experience and education; what you say will be something new that will not fit into the world. It will, in effect, change the world. That's what I'm asking you to do, go out and change the world."


A graduating student waves to the crowd at Fall Commencement. The first fall ceremony in more than 40 years attracted more than 650 graduates. Photo by Ben Wirtz Siegel



Graduate Angela Huffman holds her child Davin before the ceremony begins. Photo by Ben Wirtz Siegel


Ohio University President Roderick McDavis applaudes the class of 2015. Photo by Ben Wirtz Siegel


Distinguished Professor of Theater Charles Smith delivers the Fall Commencement address to the class of 2015. Photo by Ben Wirtz Siegel


Scripps College of Communication students turn their tassels during the Fall Commencement ceremony. Photo by Ben Wirtz Siegel


Graduate Felicia Vickerson waves to family and friends while she walks across the stage. Photo by Ben Wirtz Siegel



Graduate Amanda L. Tubbs poses for a photo with the University Communications and Marketing produced "You Did It" banner in front of the Convocation Center. Photo by Ben Wirtz Siegel


Graduate Jared Robert Fisher (center) applaudes President Roderick J. McDavis' remarks. Photo by Ben Wirtz Siegel

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Business College graduate Joseph M. Sypula hugs his father following the first Fall Commencement ceremony in more than 40 years. Photo by Ben Wirtz Siegel

fall_commencement_bws-Rochard Dument-600px

Graduate Rochard Dumeny celebrates with his family after Saturday's ceremony at the Convocation Center. He earned a bachelor's degree in engineering technology and management. Photo by Ben Wirtz Siegel

Quotes from Saturday's graduates:

Matthew Wilhelm of Columbus, graduating from the Master of Business Administration Program after serving 12 years in the Army

What does this day mean to you?

“It’s just a sense of accomplishment. I’m the first one in my family to do this.”

What are your plans after today?

“To sleep!”

Gary Pecorello of Plainville, Massachusetts, graduating from the online MBA program

He traveled from Massachusetts to Athens for Commencement with his wife, two children, mother and sister. This was only his second time ever on the campus.

What does this day mean to you?

“Today is a lot about setting a good example for my children.”

“Having this degree will hopefully open up new opportunities as I continue working and progressing in my career.”

Pecorello has worked for Hollywood Casino for 19 years and said the company encouraged him to pursue his master’s degree.

Sammantha Kitchen of Erie, Pennsylvania, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the College of Arts and Sciences

What does today mean to you?

“I’m finally done. I’ve been here five and a half years, and I’m ready for the next chapter in my life.”

What are your plans after today?

“I plan on moving to Missouri where I’d like to work for a nonprofit.”

Giulia Di Cenzo of Olmsted Township, Ohio, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology/pre-law

What does today mean to you?

“It means that I’ve completed another milestone in my life, but it’s bittersweet. I’ve made so many friends and memories here. I appreciate everything I’m taking away from this experience. It’s been so rewarding.”

What are you plans after today?

“After a 10-month break and a little traveling, I will be going to law school.”

She hasn’t picked a law school yet, but said it would be in the Cleveland area.

Brian Hough-Rhymes of Fargo, North Dakota, graduating with a doctor of philosophy in mass communication from the Scripps College of Communication’s School of Media Arts and Studies

What does today mean to you?

“It’s a bookend. … Coming out of a master’s program, I didn’t know a lot about the doctoral programs. I applied to a lot of places that were bad fits. I applied here, and it was a good fit.”

What are your plans after today?

Hough-Rhymes has been employed at North Dakota State University since 2012 and currently serves as an advisor/lecturer in the College of University Studies.

“I plan on continuing that and to see what opportunities come my way.”

Samantha Hartless of Columbus, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology/criminology

What does today mean to you?

When Hartless enrolled at Ohio University, it meant leaving her high school boyfriend. The two stayed together throughout her undergraduate years and two days before Commencement they became engaged.

“Now I get to go start my life with him,” she said, adding that she is hoping to land a position as an adult parole officer in the Franklin County area.

Her favorite Ohio University memory?

“Living in mod-style dorms where all the friends I made became my instant family.”