Amy Acton, M.D., Tells Ohio Wesleyan’s Class of 2022 to ‘Lead with Courage and Compassion’
DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University celebrated its 178th commencement ceremony May 7, with keynote speaker Amy Acton, M.D., M.P.H., encouraging the Class of 2022 to “get in some John Lewis good trouble … create the conditions in which all of us can lead flourishing lives … (and) lead with courage and compassion.”
“You are not an ordinary generation,” said Acton, who served as the senior health adviser to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Because we’ve never before had the entire world go through the same thing at the same time in quite this way.
“I’ve started to think of you as Generation C, and that is not for just COVID, or chaos, or all of the challenges you have faced,” said Acton, who was awarded a 2021 Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for her pandemic leadership. “But I think of it … for your courage, for your compassion, that you’re collaborative, that you’re change agents.”
At times, Acton told Ohio Wesleyan’s Class of 2022, “You are going to think you are lost. … Your life is going to be like a mini-pandemic. … Don’t panic. Don’t resist what life brings you. ...
“People are so hungry for trustworthiness and decency, and I need you, Generation C, to don those capes,” Acton said. “It is your time.”
During the ceremony, Acton also was awarded an Ohio Wesleyan Honorary Doctor of Science degree in recognition of her exemplary leadership and contributions to the betterment of the world. Today, she serves as the president and CEO of RAPID 5 (Rivers and Parks Imagination Design), a nonprofit group working to connect all of Franklin County via park trails and waterways to support public health.
In addition to Acton, graduating senior Olivia Anderson of Toledo, Ohio, also shared words of wisdom and inspiration with the crowd.
“There is no universal experience here – each one of us has walked our own individual path on this campus,” said Anderson, a Studio Art major and Theatre minor. “However, we do have two very special things in common: ambition and adaptability. We of all classes have endured the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Despite all the odds being against us, we have persevered. …
“I encourage you to step back from today, give yourself credit, and take a break,” Anderson said. “We’ve earned it, after all. And when you are ready, take all you have learned here and start your next journey. The world waits for you.”
President Rock Jones, Ph.D., also addressed the graduates, congratulating the Class of 2022 for persevering through a pandemic and urging them to use their OWU educations to improve the world.
“You were less than halfway through your time at OWU when the campus closed and you went home,” Jones said, recalling the March 2020 mandate. “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. …
“You showed us how to be flexible and adapt to circumstances we had not imagined,” Jones continued. “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. …
“Now you look ahead, with a lifetime of opportunity in front of you,” he concluded. “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.”
The graduating students included nearly 300 spring, summer, and fall graduates, with three members who achieved perfect 4.0 grade point averages: Lydia Arnold of Tiffin, Ohio; Davis Graham of Canton, Ohio; and Gwendolyn Toves of Dublin, Ohio, who completed her degree in December.
During the Saturday afternoon ceremony, the University honored four outstanding faculty members with special awards:
- Franchesca Nestor, Ph.D., assistant professor of Politics and Government, received The Sherwood Dodge Shankland Award for Encouragement of Teachers. Nestor joined the OWU faculty in 2017.
- Bradley Trees, Ph.D., the Richardson-Linebaugh Professor of Physics and Astronomy, received the Libuse L. Reed Endowed Professorship. A 1986 OWU graduate, Trees joined the faculty in 1997.
- Kristina Bogdanov, M.F.A., associate professor of Fine Arts, received the Welch Meritorious Teaching Award. Bogdanov joined the OWU faculty in 2007.
- Michael Flamm, Ph.D., professor of History, received the Welch Award for Scholarly or Artistic Achievement. Flamm joined the OWU faculty in 1998.
In addition, Ohio Wesleyan bestowed the Adam Poe Medal upon Robert Gitter, Ph.D. professor emeritus of Economics, in recognition of his recent retirement. Gitter retired in December after 46 years of service to the university and its students.
President Jones concluded the 178th commencement ceremony with Ohio Wesleyan’s traditional benediction, encouraging OWU’s newest alumni to share their knowledge and compassion with a world in need.
“If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have found freedom, take it with you into the world,” Jones said. “If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have found peace, go and share it with others. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have found some portion of truth, go and seek it all the more. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have learned to dream dreams, help one another, and those dreams may come true. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have known love, give some back to a hurting and bruised world.”
Photos From the Event
May 7, 2022 | (Photos by James DeCamp and Paul Vernon)
Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 70 undergraduate majors and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through its signature program, the OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan teaches students to integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included on the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “Best Colleges” lists. Connect with OWU expert interview sources at owu.edu/experts or learn more at owu.edu.