SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — For the third year in a row, Mother Nature didn’t hold up her end of the bargain, but that did little to dampen the spirits of the more than 400 members of Wittenberg University’s Class of 2005 as they participated in the 160th Year Commencement exercises.
A standing-room-only crowd packed the Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER) Center to recognize Wittenberg’s graduating class, which included 31 individuals who studied in the School of Community Education and three adult students who received a Master of Arts in Education. Sixteen graduates are international students and 19 are members of the University Honors program. Undergraduate degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Music Education were awarded during the ceremony.
Hundreds of guests unable to crowd into the HPER Center were able to view a video broadcast of the ceremony in nearby Hollenbeck Hall. The broadcast was available in more than a dozen classrooms in Hollenbeck.
Lois Raimondo, class of 1981, an award-winning photojournalist for National Geographic and the Washington Post whose work has appeared in daily, weekly and monthly publications throughout the world, delivered the Commencement address. She received a Doctor of Humane Letters from James Huffman, professor of history.
Raimondo counseled the graduates to look beyond the obvious, superficial and tangible elements of life. She told them that Wittenberg has prepared them well, and now it is their time to put their education to good use.
“Be attentive, not just with your eyes and ears, but with your heart,” said Raimondo, who was honored in 2002 as a Wittenberg Fellow and was a 2003 Phi Beta Kappa (alumna status) recipient. “Question everything you see in print and television news. Inform yourselves. Don’t close your eyes.”
One of several speakers to reference the events of Sept. 11, 2001, during the ceremony, Raimondo was eloquent and passionate in her address. She told the graduates to test their knowledge, apply the lessons learned at Wittenberg and stand up for things they believe in. She stressed that the world has changed since those terrible events nearly four years ago, just weeks after the majority of the Class of 2005 stepped foot on the Springfield campus.
Raimondo should know. She was featured in the Summer 2002 edition of Wittenberg Magazine after capturing readers’ attention with a 28-page spread in National Geographic that featured her images and words from 10 weeks on the war front in Afghanistan. She also sent photographs from the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan back to the Washington Post during the U.S.-led war, which earned her a place in the “Best of the Post 2001.”
Raimondo, a double major in English and East Asian Studies at Wittenberg, has traveled around the world, and she warned that Americans will likely never again feel as comfortable at home as they once did. The world will continue to change, but Wittenberg teaches its students the importance of recognizing, celebrating and understanding diversity.
“I know now, 24 years later, how important this place was to my formation,” said Raimondo, a 1993 Wittenberg University Athletic Hall of Honor inductee for her record-setting exploits in field hockey. “Trust in this. Powerful seeds have been planted.”
Two other honorary degrees were conferred during the ceremony. Frederick Aigner, class of 1965, received a Doctor of Divinity from Paul Nelson, professor of religion and chair of the department. Aigner is president and chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI), a 138-year-old organization that is a statewide not-for-profit social service agency of the three Illinois synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Richard Zimmerman, class of 1956 and a third generation Wittenberg alum, was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters by Michael McClelland, assistant professor of English. Zimmerman, a Springfield native and former writer and editor at the Urbana Daily Citizen, the Dayton Journal Herald and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, is now a Washington-based freelance writer, editor and author.
Interim President Bill Steinbrink and Senior Class President Ann Bixel also addressed the crowd, and both made references to the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Even though this was an unthinkable tragedy (the attacks of Sept. 11), we were comforted by the fact that we were among friends,” said Bixel, an art major from Bluffton, Ohio. “I was extremely comforted by my friends, even though I had just met most of them a few weeks earlier.”
Wittenberg as a home away from home was Bixel’s theme.
“Wittenberg means something different to everyone,” Bixel said. “The Webster’s Dictionary definition of the word ‘home’ is strikingly similar to Wittenberg.
“Home is a place of origin. Wittenberg is a place of origin for each and every one of us in the Class of 2005. It is the origin of our independent lives. It is the origin of our futures.”
Steinbrink noted how much the world around Wittenberg has changed, and also how many changes have occurrd on the campus in the last four years. In that time, the Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center was completed, two new student apartment buildings have been opened, updates have been made to the dining areas of the Benham-Pence Student Center, a communication major has been added, an Honor Council has been established, and a portion of Woodlawn Avenue became a pedestrian walking area known as Alumni Way.
“I have confidence in your readiness,” Steinbrink said. “I wish you all good fortune.”
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
• Book-Delivering Prof Named Ohio Professor of the Year
• Senior Class Selects Livestrong President & CEO Doug Ulman As 2011 Commencement Speaker
•Communication Program Honored Nationally With Top Award
• Wittenberg University Art Students Finalists For Scholarship Award