“President’s Remarks to the Class of 2018”

Rock Jones

OWU President Address
2018 Ohio Wesleyan University Commencement Ceremony
May 12, 2018

Rock Jones delivers the OWU president address at OWU’s 2018 Commencement Ceremony. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Members of the faculty, staff, Board of Trustees, family, friends, and most importantly, members of the Ohio Wesleyan University Class of 2018, welcome to the glorious occasion of this Commencement.

Today we gather in the heart of this historic campus where for more than 175 years OWU has shaped the lives of students in preparation for leadership and service in every sector of our society.

Today our newest graduates take their place in a long line of splendor, joining the ranks of alumni whose passion, grit, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, social commitment, and intellectual vitality have changed the fabric of our society and shaped the future of our democracy.

Graduates, this is your day. We commend you for the accomplishments that bring you to this moment, and we look forward with great anticipation to the marks you will make in the years ahead.

Over the past four years, you have embraced an extraordinary range of opportunities on this campus. As I have visited with many of you in recent weeks, you have spoken with great appreciation for the work of our faculty, the rigor of the academic experience, and the personal attention you received in and beyond the classroom.

You have talked about the benefits of a diverse campus and the ways in which your horizons were expanded through living among those whose life experiences are quite different from your own.

You have talked about The OWU Connection and the impact of travel learning, internships, and undergraduate research.

You have talked about experiences beyond the curriculum, including athletics, Greek life, student government, and the arts.

You have talked about advocacy for issues of great importance in a time of deep divisions in our society.

In sum, you have talked about what it means to live a life of meaning and purpose, to be an engaged citizen, to be a whole person fully integrated in mind, body, spirit, and human connection. OWU could have no higher aspirations for you.

As we gather today, I am reminded of the enormous impact you have had on this campus. Here are some of your legacies here at OWU:

  • You established the Food Recovery Network, diverting more than 3,000 pounds of unused food to help others during your four years here.
  • You provided leadership in creating a new OWU Sustainability Plan.
  • You created the Student Inclusion Advocacy Committee (SIAC) within WCSA.
  • You created the Black Student Union and recreated Rafiki wa Afrika.
  • You brought us Fashion Show and Soul Food Lunch.
  • You created Poochella, a creative dog festival that brought together pets, students, faculty/staff, the Delaware community, and local small-business owners.
  • You created the House of Spiritual Athletes and changed the name of the Women’s House to SAGE and the MFL House to HOLD. You helped design new SLUs, the Gillespie Honors House, and the new House of Black Culture.
  • You led the extraordinary OWU response to the 2017 hurricanes.
  • You re-established OWU’s relationship with the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.
  • You helped Bishop athletic teams win 15 league championships.
  • You touched our hearts and challenged our thinking with your artistic performances and creations.
  • You are the first OWU class able to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree.
  • Collectively, you traveled to more than two dozen countries through The OWU Connection.
  • You joined in the celebration of Ohio Wesleyan’s 175th anniversary.
  • You witnessed the reopening of Merrick Hall, now the Home of The OWU Connection.
  • You saw the renovation of Edwards Gymnasium and the opening of the Simpson Querrey Fitness Center.

Your impact on this campus will endure, and we will think of you as we experience your legacy in years to come.

As you receive your diploma and leave this campus today, you move forward into:

  • a world looking for leaders who bring us together in pursuit of a shared vision for a better life for all people;
  • a world searching for leaders who bring to fruition the ideas that strengthen our economy and create a more just society;
  • a world longing for leaders with the moral ballast to lead us to the best possible use of scientific discovery, economic development, big data, and intellectual achievement in a society that honors the dignity of every human being and of all creation;
  • a world yearning for a message of hope and confidence at a time when too many voices sow seeds of division and fear.

Your education, grounded in the liberal arts and enhanced by experiences that connected you to the larger world and the pressing challenges that await your generation, has prepared you for just such leadership, in just such a world.

To the parents, family members, and friends who are gathered here today, I offer my gratitude and congratulations. None of us advances in life without the assistance of others.

Your encouragement, support, and unwavering confidence in the students whose achievements you celebrate today were important markers on the paths that led to this moment.

We are grateful for your place in the OWU family and even more grateful for your place in the lives of these graduates.

Graduates, when you arrived four years ago, I pointed you to the clock tower at the foot of the historic walk adjacent to Sturges Hall. The tower was installed in 2005 by the Class of 1955 on the occasion of their 50-year reunion. They inscribed these words:

“May your time in this place open your mind to a lifetime of learning, your heart to creating memories and enduring friendships, your life to infinite opportunities.”

A mind for lifelong learning. A heart filled with memories and enduring friendships. A life of infinite opportunity.

Today, we all can affirm that this has happened for your class in extraordinary ways, large and small. Now you are ready for what awaits. We look forward to the journeys your lives will follow, and we look forward to the times those journeys bring you back to this campus.

Congratulations, and Godspeed.