OWU President Address
Dr. Rock Jones
178th Ohio Wesleyan University Commencement Ceremony
May 7, 2022
Members of the faculty and staff, Trustee Granger, Dr. Acton, families and friends of our graduates, and most importantly of all, members of the Ohio Wesleyan University Class of 2022, welcome to these Commencement exercises. We are honored by your presence, and we are thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of these graduates.
Graduates, this is your day.
Four years ago, we gathered right here, surrounded by these historic buildings, as you embarked on your college journey. You arrived with hopes and dreams, and in many cases with some level of anxiety. We imagined together what your college experience might include.
But none of us, not a single one of us, imagined on that day four years ago what it would be like to spend the majority of your time in college in the grips of a pandemic. You were less than halfway through your time at OWU when the campus closed and you went home.
Remarkably, your education did not end. In due time, you returned to campus, and today we are back in front of Merrick Hall celebrating the unique accomplishments of the bold and irrepressible Class of 2022.
As I visited with many of you in recent weeks, I was struck by the resilience in your voice, and the pride you have taken in the lives you created in these challenging times.
Yes, you have acknowledged the loss you experienced when you went home, when you returned to classrooms with chairs spaced and everyone masked, when you were unable to travel, compete, or perform as you had envisioned.
But the stories I have heard have been less about loss, and more about accomplishment – accomplishment driven by determination against the odds, resilience in the face of challenge, and a relentless optimism in a world that too often seeks to rob us of hope.
As a result of your fearless determination, you will be remembered on campus by the legacies you have created. Let me share some of the ways that our campus is different because of your time here:
- More than half of you documented a completed internship with the Career Connection, helping to establish the internship program at OWU as distinctive, even in a virtual world.
- You were the first class in our history to have four years of access to the Delaware Entrepreneurial Center, and several of you located your own start-up at the DEC. You showed the way.
- You gave new life to Horizons International and brought Culture Fest back to campus.
- You gave new energy to historic organizations that are far stronger now than when you arrived, including Sisters United, Black Men of the Future, Rafiki, and Black Student Union.
- You restored the Greek Season of Service.
- You facilitated deep conversations among students in such programs as “Let’s Talk About Social Justice.”
- You created Trick-or-Treat for Bishops, an amazing evening on the JAYwalk where dozens of student organizations provided an opportunity for children and families of Delaware.
- You brought Chi Phi to a house on campus for the first time in its history, and you reconstituted Phi Delta Theta.
- Members of your class are the first to complete four years in the men’s wrestling program since it returned to campus after nearly half a century.
- You provided the inspiration and leadership for a new commitment to serving first-generation students.
- You were the first students to complete the summer Bridge Program.
- You challenged our campus to acknowledge the places where we do not live up to our values and aspirations, and you became partners in creating a better tomorrow for OWU.
Most importantly, you showed us how to be flexible and adapt to circumstances we had not imagined. With the support of faculty and staff who never wavered in their commitment to you,
- you completed your coursework,
- you engaged in meaningful and groundbreaking research,
- you discovered and pursued new intellectual passions,
- and you prepared yourselves for lives that will be rich in meaning, deep in purpose, and profound in impact on our larger world.
Even in a pandemic, you have fulfilled our highest aspirations for the outcome of an OWU education.
Andy Anderson was a longtime member of the Ohio Wesleyan faculty in the Department of Philosophy. One of his former students, Kara Trott, recently shared with me a letter Dr. Anderson wrote to another of his former students reflecting on the experience of being in college.
He wrote, “University students are among the truly privileged of the earth. Nobody – nobody – else has what they have: a four-year block of time to explore themselves by exploring everything that there is to be explored, to find out what their interests are, what they are good at, what they aren’t interested in, or not good at: four long years in which the only thing they are asked to do is create themselves.”
The only thing they are asked to do is create themselves.
On this day, perhaps you recall the questions we discussed when you first visited OWU:
- What do you care about?
- Where do you want to go?
- Who do you want to be?
Now, perhaps you can see how your time here has allowed you to create yourself. Now, you look ahead, with a lifetime of opportunity in front of you.
You are more than ready, And we are more than eager to watch, as we are fully confident that you who have created yourselves before our very eyes will make an enormous impact on the world that awaits.
Congratulations, graduates. You have made this a truly great day to be a Bishop.