At 4 p.m. on August 18, a partly sunny and somewhat sultry day, the Class of 2015 entered Phillips Glen for Ohio Wesleyan’s 170th Opening Convocation—the first time the ceremony has been held where the students will gather again in four years for their Commencement exercises.
Preceding the faculty, who were dressed in academic regalia, the class entered more casually attired—in shorts and T-shirts, after a hectic day of moving in, unpacking, meeting hallmates, and attending meetings.
Following the invocation by Chaplain Jon Powers and opening remarks from Provost David Robbins and Dean of Students Kimberlie Goldsberry, WCSA President Sharif Kronemer welcomed the newest future alumni.
His remarks included the startling fact that the solution to the world’s problems rests with those who have been educated, and educated people amount to less than seven percent of the world’s population.
He challenged the Class of 2015 to become global heroes and told them that an Ohio Wesleyan education would give them the tools to tackle such an ambitious goal—that students are already embarked on saving the planet, and this year’s class could join them.
“Ohio Wesleyan is a hero maker,” Kronemer said. “Humanity is an underdog,” he concluded, “and the educated minority will write the story of the world’s future.”
After Kronemer’s greeting, the OWU Trumpet Ensemble, the sun glinting off their instruments, was directed by Dr. Clinton Needham in “As We Enter This Space,” a selection composed by Needham for the occasion.
OWU Vice President for Enrollment Rebecca Eckstein presented the class to President Rock Jones. President Jones then addressed the attendees with remarks titled “The Power of Intellect and Passion: An Education to Change the World.”
Within his talk, the president mentioned a recent visit with a highly successful alumnus.
“I asked him,” Jones said, “what he valued most about his Ohio Wesleyan experience. He immediately listed the names of three members of the OWU faculty, all of whom now are retired. … His experience is consistent with [those] of every alumnus and alumna of Ohio Wesleyan with whom I have ever visited. Invariably they point to members of the faculty who influenced them and who helped shape them for the remainder of their lives. … The quality of your Ohio Wesleyan experience will be directly related to your willingness to gain the full benefit of this collection of master teachers and world-class scholars.”
Jones continued that the alumnus also had said the most important aspects of education today were the liberal arts as preparation for leadership, the ability to write very well, and the need to work well across borders, including “the capacity for empathy and the ability to listen well when working with individuals and organizations from other cultures, with other values, and with life experiences quite different from one’s own.”
At Ohio Wesleyan, Jones said, “our aim is to open the mind. For it is an open mind that liberates individuals and societies from the narrow views that become restrictive and ultimately deadly. A liberal education is, at the core, a liberating experience.”
Jones mentioned his recent trip to Poland, during which he visited Auschwitz and Berkenau, Oskar Schindler’s factory, and Jewish ghettos in four European cities.
“There is much that can be said in reflection on the experiences of this summer,” Jones said. “But today I simply note that they recall to me the importance of liberal education. We must study history, remembering that ‘those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ We must liberate our minds and, in the process, be ready to liberate our world.
“It is to this high purpose of developing educated citizens and liberated leaders that this University is devoted. And it is to this high purpose that you have the opportunity to devote yourself on this day of matriculation.”
Following the singing of the Alma Mater, the first-year students and their families, faculty, and administration enjoyed dinner on the JAYwalk—and the rain, which had threatened at the end of the ceremony, held off until the meal was concluded.
True OWU weather!
Watch streaming video of the Convocation ceremony.