“President’s Remarks to the Class of 2019”

Dr. Rock Jones

OWU President Address
2019 Ohio Wesleyan University Commencement Ceremony
May 11, 2019

Rock Jones delivers the OWU president address at OWU’s 2019 Commencement Ceremony. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

What a glorious day! It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you – trustees, faculty, staff, parents, grandparents, friends, and most importantly, the Ohio Wesleyan University Class of 2019 – to this 175th Commencement ceremony.

Graduates, this is your day. Right now, look around you, and soak in the memories of the classes you’ve taken in these buildings, and the discussions you’ve had with these faculty and classmates. You have devoted yourself to the rigorous work of liberal education – stretching your mind in ways you had not imagined, exploring frontiers you did not know existed, and engaging the fascinating and infinite world of ideas.

You have complemented your intellectual pursuits with social engagement, athletic competition, artistic creativity, cross-cultural and study travel experiences, and deep commitments to service.

Today your time on this campus comes to fruition. But the work of liberal education is unending, and the fascinating journey of discovery through the world of ideas will continue as long as you draw breath.

As I signed your diplomas a week ago, I found myself reflecting on the many ways in which our paths have crossed over these four years.

I thought about conversations we’ve shared – some on campus and some as far away as the South of Spain. I thought about times I’ve seen you in leadership. I thought about times I’ve seen you in competition on fields and courts, performing on stage, or reporting on research and travel.

The education you received here began in the classroom and extended to the far corners of the earth. Here, you learned to think big, go global and get real. You traveled far and wide, and you put theory into practice in extraordinary ways.

By our count, more than 90 percent of you had an OWU Connection experience. You received academic credit for 129 internships. Twenty-nine of you completed two or more internships. In addition, nearly one-third of you completed a practicum in your academic major.

You embraced the opportunity for learning beyond the boundaries of the campus. Sixty-five of you completed a travel-learning course, and 14 of you completed more than one. Over 20 percent of you spent a semester studying off-campus.

You engaged in volunteer service. You challenged yourself intellectually, often engaging in research at an individual level. More than half of you completed at least one independent study.

You participated in the launch of new programs that have enriched our campus. More than 50 of you are graduating with degrees in majors that did not exist when you arrived on campus.

You helped launch our rowing team, and you saw the return of wrestling and a marching band. You advocated for a new dining service. Well done.

You helped us imagine a robust renewal of our residential campus. You advocated for a new House of Black Culture, which opened in January. You helped create La Casa, which will open in August.

You brought us Fashion Show featuring the culture, music, dance, poetry, and fashion of the Caribbean and Africa, and you engineered the return of Rafiki.

You have been strong champions for diversity and inclusion. You staged a sit-in outside my office to provoke meaningful dialogue, and you played leadership roles in last fall’s historic Diversity Summit.

You leave your mark on this campus in extraordinary ways.

When you arrived four years ago, we introduced you to our notion of an education that prepares moral leaders for a global society. We’ve talked often about what it means to be an educated citizen, to devote your life to making a difference in this gloriously diverse world in which we live.

But the four years you’ve spent on this campus have been years where others in our society have walked away from commitments to diversity, pursuing tribal agendas of isolation rather than global agendas of shared prosperity.

Nationalism is on the rise around the world, at the expense of the cross-cultural friendship and understanding reflected in the values we cherish here at OWU.

I’m grateful for the opportunities we’ve shared together, spending our days among people eager to learn from one another, and to live and study in the midst of people from all around the world.

I’m grateful your commitment to the value of building bridges, opening doors, and seeking to listen to and understand those whose life experiences and perspectives are quite different from your own.

Today I encourage you to hold fast to what you’ve learned here. It will serve you well. And you will serve our world well.

I have a word for those who sit behind you today. These are the people who’ve known you since before you knew yourself. They’ve been with you for each step as you’ve made your way through the world.

Today they bask in the glory of your accomplishments. Parents and grandparents, siblings and friends, I congratulate you, and I thank you for sharing with this campus the lives you cherish the most. They have done well, and in the future they will do much good.

Graduates, I offer my wholehearted congratulations. You will be missed on this campus.

But we will be following you, we will be cheering for you, and we will be watching for the ways you fulfill the highest aspirations of your alma mater wherever you go and whatever you do.

Congratulations on this, your day.