DELAWARE, Ohio – Internet technology pioneer and 1961 Ohio Wesleyan University graduate George H. Conrades borrowed some advice from another successful OWU alumnus when Conrades delivered the keynote address May 12 at Ohio Wesleyan’s 169thcommencement ceremony.
“Our far-sighted alum, Branch Rickey says to Jackie Robinson in the movie ’42’ – in response to Robinson’s question, ‘How do you want me to act?’ – ‘Show the world you’re a fine man and a great baseball player.’ ”
This means, Conrades told the graduates, that you “show up, on time, dressed to play. That you’ve done your homework and worked hard at getting the facts. That you are eager to pursue common ground, to get things done together with infectious energy, passion, courage, and confidence. Show up, on time, dressed to play. That’s all that’s expected of you, whatever you exist to be.”
The Ohio Wesleyan Class of 2013 included 381 spring, summer, and fall graduates, with 64 cum laude, 34 magna cum laude, and 19 summa cum laude honorees. The class also included three graduates with perfect 4.0 grade point averages – Victoria Anne Schlaudt of Holland, Mich.; Bradley Paul Turnwald of Ottoville, Ohio; and Colleen Elizabeth Waickman of Akron, Ohio.
“As soon-to-be leaders in our society, you have a critical role to play,” said Conrades, the former chief executive officer and current chairman of Massachusetts-based Akamai Technologies Inc. “Less than a third of Americans have a college degree – and you have one of the best. As leaders, you can make things better not only by showing the way (the ‘what’) but by helping to get us there (the ‘how.’) …
“I am actually pretty optimistic about you and your generation,” Conrades said. “You see value in one another. You are much more open to new ideas from all over the world than my generation. You have eagerly embraced the opportunity to turn theory into practice with international experiences here at Ohio Wesleyan. You live in a hyperconnected world with instant access to vast amounts of information – a world that promises more transformational change every day. …”
At Ohio Wesleyan, Conrades majored in physics and mathematics. He later earned his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and then spent 31 years with IBM, serving in senior management roles in the United States and abroad. In 1998, he became involved with Akamai, an Internet technology company that helps enterprises provide secure, high-performing cloud connections to their customers on any device, anywhere. He and his wife, Patricia “Patsy” Belt Conrades, Class of 1963, both are Ohio Wesleyan Life Trustees.
In addition to Conrades, Zeke Brechtel, Ohio Wesleyan’s 2013 senior class president, also spoke before the crowd of graduates, families, and friends gathered for the outdoor ceremony in OWU’s Phillips Glen. Brechtel, a physics major and mathematics minor from Arvada, Colo., encouraged his fellow classmates to avoid becoming overly cynical or complacent.
“We can have the courage to hope,” Brechtel said. “We can have the courage to be true to ourselves and true to the realities of the world in which we live. We can admit that there are unprecedented environmental and economic challenges that our generation will face. The world needs change, and to my fellow seniors, we are the ones who are going to bring it. …
“We have the capacity, in our lifetimes, to become the next great generation,” Brechtel said. “We have the capacity to work together to leave this world in better shape than it was delivered to us.”
Ohio Wesleyan President Rock Jones, Ph.D., also addressed the graduates, reminding the seniors that, as freshmen, each was given a live Chinese Bamboo shoot. At that time, he shared the parable of the bamboo tree, noting that it takes each tree four years to break ground after planting. During that time, the trees work unseen to build the strong, fibrous root structure needed to support them.
“Today, your roots at OWU run more deeply than you could have imagined four years ago,” Jones said. “Now it is time for your branches to spread. … You are ready, and the world is waiting. Congratulations and Godspeed.”
Before concluding the 2013commencement ceremony, Jones also encouraged the new graduates to share their knowledge and compassion with a world in need.
“If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have found freedom, take it with you into the world,” Jones said, sharing traditional OWU graduation wishes. “If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have found peace, go and share it with others. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have found some portion of truth, go and seek it all the more. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have dreamed dreams, help one another, and those dreams may be fulfilled. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have known love, give some back to a bruised and hurting world.”
During the commencement ceremony, the university also recognized five outstanding faculty members:
- Thomas L. Burns, M.A., part-time associate professor of English and physics-astronomy, received the Daniel E. Anderson Campus and Community Conscience Award.
- Vicki G. DiLillo, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, was awarded the Libuse L. Reed Endowed Professorship for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.
- Donald G. Lateiner, Ph.D., professor of humanities-classics, earned the Welch Award for Scholarly or Artistic Achievement.
- Richelle D. Schrock, Ph.D., assistant professor of women’s and gender studies, received the Sherwood Dodge Shankland Award for the Encouragement of Teachers.
- Richard L. Leavy, Ph.D., professor of psychology, earned the Bishop Herbert Welch Meritorious Teaching Award.
Ohio Wesleyan’s commencement ceremony was streamed live and will be archived for additional viewing at StreamOWU.
Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier small, private universities. Ohio Wesleyan offers more than 90 undergraduate majors, sequences, and courses of study, and 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. OWU combines an internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities that connect classroom theory with real-world practice. Located in Delaware, Ohio, OWU’s 1,850 students represent 41 states and 45 countries. The university is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included on the “best colleges” lists of U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. Learn more at www.owu.edu.