More than 500 seniors - comprising one of the largest, most diverse and decorated graduating classes in school history - received undergraduate degrees as Wittenberg celebrated the end of its 156th academic year with a 2 p.m. ceremony in Commencement Hollow.
Former Wittenberg Choir conductor L. David Miller received the Wittenberg Medal of Honor, which is awarded by the Board of Directors in recognition of service and dedication to Wittenberg as a liberal arts institution. Betty Braun Pitzer, former executive director of Elderly United of Springfield, received a Doctor of Humane Letters. The Rev. Harvey Spencer Peters Jr., retired Lutheran pastor with the Chicago national headquarters, received a Doctor of Divinity. McLaughlin received a Doctor of Laws.
"There is an old saying that "leadership casts a long shadow," McLaughlin told the graduates and standing-room-only crowd as he recounted several life stories and how they related to his experiences while a student at Wittenberg. "I predict that each of you will also realize as life goes on that you stand in the long shadow of someone here at Wittenberg, be it a professor, a dean, a president, or even a fellow student."
President Bill Clinton named McLaughlin deputy director of central intelligence last year. A 1964 Wittenberg graduate, McLaughlin served as deputy director of intelligence, the agency's top analyst position, from 1997-2000. He has also served as vice chairman for estimates and as acting chairman of the National Intelligence Council.
McLaughlin, who started at the CIA in 1972 after three years in the U.S. Army, launched the CIA's Senior Analytic Service, which rewards world-class expertise in topics of key concern to the U.S. Government. He was also the driving force behind the new Sherman Kent School, which houses the CIA's first comprehensive training program for professional intelligence analysts. McLaughlin has worked on various European, Russia and Eurasian issues in the Directorate of Intelligence, and in 1984-85 he served a rotational tour in the State Department's Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs, where he followed European relations with the Middle East, Central America and Africa.
George E. Hudson, professor of political science and director of Russian studies, presented McLaughlin with the honorary degree.
"When you leave this great school, you will find as I did that many forks appear in the road, and I defy any of you to know now where those choices will lead you three decades hence," McLaughlin said. "I could not in 1964 have traced my path more than a year or so into the future. But I can tell you this: when you someday retrace your path as I have, you will find your Wittenberg heritage woven through it like a constant thread."
McLaughlin concluded his speech by encouraging the graduates to "make a difference - a decisive difference for good."
Miller, a 1939 graduate of Lenoir Rhyne College, was first appointed to the faculty of the School of Music at Wittenberg in 1955. Eleven years later, when the School of Music became a separate, degree-granting division of the university, he became dean of the school. He served in that position until 1978, when he accepted an appointment as professor of sacred music at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbia, S.C., a position he held until his retirement in 1999.
An ordained Lutheran pastor, Miller served as Minister of Music at St. John's Lutheran Church in Dayton during his years at Wittenberg, and he succeeded to the conductorship of the Wittenberg Choir, a responsibility he had until the early 1970s. Under his leadership, the choir toured extensively throughout the country and the world, and it was also heard weekly on national radio broadcasts. Due to an unexpected hospitalization, Miller's daughter received the award in his absence from Wittenberg University President Baird Tipson.
Pitzer, a 1933 Wittenberg graduate, was director of Elderly United from its founding in 1968 until 1991. In that capacity she planned and coordinated programs for the more than 24,000 elderly people in Clark County, and she was instrumental in securing $1.2 million for the renovation of the present site of Elderly United in 1981 as a multipurpose center. Pitzer served on many city, county and state advisory boards and committees, including Ohio Citizens Council, Area Agency on Aging, Governor's Conference on Aging and White House Conference on Aging.
She received the Governor's Award in 1982 for excellence of achievement benefiting mankind and improving the quality of life for all Ohioans. Wittenberg recognized her with the Wittenberg Alumni Citation Award in 1975 for placing service to humanity ahead of personal recognition and the Golden W in 1983 for 50 years of support. Pitzer was presented her honorary degree by Warren R. Copeland, professor of religion and director of urban studies at Wittenberg and mayor of the City of Springfield.
Peters, who earned an undergraduate degree in 1956 and a Master of Divinity in 1959 from Wittenberg, is currently on the Board of Directors of San Diego Organizing Project, a faith-based community organization of 23 congregations representing 42,000 families and addressing issues related to the working poor and homeless. A previous recipient of the Wittenberg Alumni Citation Award, Peters served as pastor of four different churches in the last 40 years, and he has also worked for the Division for Mission in North America, Lutheran Church of America in a variety of capacities.
Peters has been the Assistant Executive Director of Urban Ministry, Assistant Director in the Department for Special Services, Assistant Director for Program Development, Board of American Missions, and Mission Developer for the Northern New Jersey Lutheran Parish. Paul T. Nelson, professor of religion and department chair, presented Peters with his honorary degree.