As rain threatened but held off, the 143rd Ursinus commencement May 13 acknowledged the distinctive Ursinus education and the Common Intellectual Experience that will allow the Class of 2016 to discern truths, adapt to change and become successful in tomorrow’s world.
Before 362 seniors were awarded bachelor’s degrees, honorary degrees were given to Constance H. Williams, chair of the board of trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and to the Rev. Wayne W. Meisel, founding president of the national Bonner Foundation.
The Rev. Meisel, who is director of the Center for Faith and Service at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, delivered the Baccalaureate address on Thursday evening, and called Ursinus students “courageous individuals stepping outside their comfort zones every day.”
Ms. Williams spoke about coming of age during an era where women were not favored and the women’s movement was just taking shape. Nevertheless she said, “I have been a daughter, a sister, a student, a wife, a secretary, a writer, a mother, an entrepreneur, a state representative and state senator, a grandmother, and now the chair of the board of trustees at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Do you think at the age of 21 I could have imagined that?”
She spoke of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Berman Museum of Art on campus, as art museums are places for contemplation and creativity – “almost a microcosm of a liberal arts college,” she said.
That liberal arts education, she continued, “has given you the background to respond in our rapidly changing world. Your Common Intellectual Experience has enabled you to understand the great minds that have formed the intellectual basis of our civilization. You have learned how to learn. You understand the cultural, historical and religious differences of the peoples of the world … knowledge that should help you navigate a world in which we all ought to live together in peace – a world where the future is certainly unpredictable.”
Student speaker Olivia Keithley also referenced the Common Intellectual Experience. “We were first introduced to the question, “How should we live our lives?” four years ago in CIE,” she said. “It was throughout the rest of our time at Ursinus that we learned that this question is something with which we will always wrestle. We have learned that the questions we explore inside of the classroom are very much connected to our daily lives.
“This realization has caused each of us to be more purposeful in our own daily choices and act in ways that reflect the morals we have cultivated,” she said.
At the end of the ceremony, three awards were given to faculty who are all involved in the CIE.
The H. Lloyd Jones Jr. Award for distinguished advising and mentoring, was given to Rev. Charles Rice, college chaplain and visiting assistant professor in the department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.
Reading from student nominations, President Brock Blomberg said of Rev. Rice: “He sees diamonds where some others would see ordinary rocks.” And, “Rev Rice lives out his belief that we are all brothers and sisters on this world. His office hours are not a few hours set aside each week but whenever a student feels the need to meet with him.”
The Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award in recognition of outstanding teaching, was given to Associate Professor of Education Stephanie Mackler, who students described as “a talented, passionate, insightful, and thought-provoking educator.
“Dr. Mackler taught me to view all issues with the lens of an educator and to see education as not synonymous with schools but as synonymous with thinking, engaging, reading, and always questioning,” President Blomberg read from student nominations.
The Laughlin Professional Achievement Award, endowed by Henry P. Laughlin, M.D., ’38, and M. Page Durkee Laughlin, for a faculty member who has made significant contributions to scholarship, was awarded to Associate Professor of Physics Thomas Carroll, a renowned scholar in computational and atomic physics.
Quoting from one of Carroll’s faculty colleagues, President Blomberg noted that “Dr. Carroll has mentored 15 summer research students and four honors students during his time at Ursinus. Four of his articles include student co-authors, and he has traveled with students to present at numerous national and international conferences. In short, Professor Carroll exemplifies the Ursinus College ideal of the teacher-scholar.”
President Blomberg also invoked the CIE in his closing remarks. “This class has already learned to adapt to remarkably unexpected change. We have asked a lot from you as senior leaders of the Ursinus student body. Looking ahead, the liberal education in which you have immersed yourselves will empower you to grow and exceed even your own expectations. Starting with the first CIE (Common Intellectual Experience) class in August 2012, you have learned to ask questions, deal with ambiguity, discern truth. You have learned to gather evidence, and make rational decisions based on what you have learned. And I promise you that, should our paths cross again in a year, or five years, you will comment about how transformative an experience that class was to you,” he said.
“You are part of Ursinus just as Ursinus is a part of you, forever,” said President Blomberg. “We are a family.” – W.G.