Prepared to Lead

Stephen Ollendorff delivers inspiring message to 390 graduates

Commencement Weekend 2014 Links


Attorney and founder of the Ollendorff Center for Human and Religious Understanding in Tenafly, New Jersey, Stephen Ollendorff, delivered the keynote address on May 11 at Ohio Wesleyan’s 170th Commencement ceremony–as the 390 graduates, their families and friends, and members of the OWU community celebrated this special day. Ollendorff’s message to the new graduates, included the importance of defining goals, to help determine life’s opportunities.

“They will also guide you in your decision-making process,” said Ollendorff, who talked about his family history during the horrific time of the Holocaust. They fled Germany for England, to avoid religious persecution when Ollendorff was just three months old, leaving for the United States a few months later–but not before several family members on his father’s side lost their lives. For the next year, the family separated, as Ollendorff’s father, Ulrich, moved to New York to set up his ophthalmologist’s practice, and Ollendorff and Anne, his mother, arrived in Delaware, Ohio, to live with OWU professor Guy Sarvis and his wife, Maud. It was then that the young Ollendorff was introduced to humanity at its best, and the kindness and courage of the Sarvises have stayed with him and his wife, Bjorg, to this day. Last June, the Ollendorffs recognized the role that OWU and the Sarvises played, as the Center contributed $100,000 to OWU to create the Dr. Guy Sarvis Endowed Travel/Research Grant supporting cross-cultural understanding and tolerance, and the Guy Sarvis Award, given annually to a student who has fostered cross-cultural understanding.

“Try to live your life as you choose to live it, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, while recognizing that certain circumstances may be beyond your control,” advised Ollendorff. “And lastly, lead an ethical life which will help nurture the spark of the Divine, which I believe, is in each of us.” He then presented OWU President Rock Jones with a Holocaust Menorah on behalf of the Ollendorff Center, as a reminder of the six million Jews who died during the Holocaust.

Jones talked to the graduates about entering a world that is very different from the world that awaited past graduates.

“You live in a global society and will work in a global economy,” he said, mentioning complex global problems which will require lasting solutions—and engagement of multiple disciplines of knowledge and understanding.

“You helped Ohio Wesleyan refine and enhance its commitment to an education that connects theory to practice in a global context,” said Jones, adding that the Class of 2014 is the first to benefit fully from the OWU Connection. “More of you studied and travelled abroad than any other class in OWU history, and most of you engaged in volunteer service…. With your experience here at OWU, you will pursue lasting solutions that enhance the quality of human life, strengthen the structures of human societies, and preserve the rich beauty and bountiful resources of our planet.”

Ohio Wesleyan’s Class of 2014 included 65 cum laude graduates, 33 magna cum laude, 20 summa cum laude, and four students with a grade point average of 4.0: Karli Amstadt, Alyssa Carothers, Jessica Martin, and Carolyn Thompson.

During the Commencement program, Professor of Education Paula White received the Bishop Herbert Welch Meritorious Teaching Award and Assistant Professor of Politics and Government Ashley Biser was presented the Sherwood Dodge Shankland Award for the Encouragement of Teaching. Professor of English David Caplan received the Welch Award for Scholarly or Artistic Achievement, and Professor of English Joseph Musser was awarded the Daniel E. Anderson Award. The Adam Poe Medals were awarded to retiring faculty members Joseph Musser of the English department, Jed Burtt, from the Zoology department, and David Hickcox, from the Geology-Geography department.

Closing the Commencement program, Anthony Peddle, Senior Class President, offered uplifting commentary.

“We stand poised and ready to take on the world…a world we get to shape and create.”

Social Media Coverage of the 2014 Ohio Wesleyan University Commencement


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