Antioch’s Hawkins graduates from Ohio Wesleyan

N’Toia Hawkins of Antioch, TN, graduated this spring from Ohio Wesleyan University. Hawkins earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Ohio Wesleyan’s Class of 2016 included 390 spring, summer, and fall graduates, with 65 cum laude, 43 magna cum laude, and 20 summa cum laude honorees. Two students were recognized for achieving perfect 4.0 grade point averages: Mark Mandych of East Aurora, New York, and Meghan Schulze of Johnstown, Ohio.

As the graduates celebrated their commencement May 8, they also were challenged not to rest on their newly achieved laurels.

“So let’s talk about the Day After,” said keynote speaker Gregory L. Moore, a 1976 Ohio Wesleyan graduate and recently retired editor of The Denver Post. “You are responsible for what happens from now on. You are in charge of putting the finishing touches on yourself. Choose your mentors carefully, my friends, and be intentional about what you want to emulate…

“Be a good citizen of the world engaged with the issues of the day,” said Moore, who led the Post to four consecutive Pulitzer Prizes during his 14-year tenure. “Try to live a truly integrated life, with friends of different races and backgrounds…

“The journey ahead is about continuous improvement,” Moore concluded. “Reach high and have a great life.”

Senior Class President Shelli Reeves of Shaker Heights, Ohio, expanded Moore’s message, urging her Ohio Wesleyan classmates to follow the “keep going” mantra of Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, who helped to free more than 300 slaves between 1850 and 1860.

“Harriet Tubman was a change-maker,” said Reeves, an international studies and black world studies double-major and a women’s and gender studies minor. “She is an example of the commitment to giving and sacrifice we must make to ensure change…

“As Harriet Tubman said, ‘Keep going!’ This means that whenever we feel like we are struggling,” Reeves said, “we must keep going to make a difference in the lives of others. If we feel as if we are alone, we must keep going and making a way for those who come after us. If we hear the occasional negative comments of others, we must keep going and remember those who have come before us. If we feel like we cannot go on, we must keep going and keep being change-agents.”

President Rock Jones, Ph.D., also addressed the OWU Class of 2016, sharing that despite the turmoil in the world today, he has great hope because he knows the new graduates will become moral leaders in the global society.

“You will do that because here you have learned that it is better to understand than to fear,” Jones said. “It is better to build bridges of engagement than walls of isolation; it is better to ask questions that lead to new truths than to assume you have all of the answers.

“Here you have learned that humility is better than arrogance,” Jones continued. “Diversity has more beauty than uniformity, and respect for human dignity calls for our deepest commitments. Here you have learned to serve, and here you have learned to give.”

During the commencement ceremony, Ohio Wesleyan also honored three outstanding faculty members with special awards: David M. Johnson, Ph.D., professor of botany and microbiology, received The Welch Award for Scholarly or Artistic Achievement; Shala J. Hankison, Ph.D., associate professor of zoology, received The Sherwood Dodge Shankland Award for the Encouragement of Teachers; and Julide Yazar, Ph.D., associate professor of economics, earned The Herbert Welch Meritorious Teaching Award.

In addition, four retiring faculty members were presented with Ohio Wesleyan’s Adam Poe Medal in recognition of their dedicated service to generations of OWU students: Bonnie Milne Gardner, Ph.D., professor of theatre & dance, was recognized for 31 years of service; Nancy L. Knop, Ph.D., professor of health and human kinetics, for 16 years of service; Richard L. Leavy, Ph.D., professor of psychology, for 36 years of service; David O. Robbins, Ph.D., professor of psychology, for 42 years of service.

President Jones concluded the commencement ceremony, as well as the 2015-2016 academic year, by ringing the same handbell used in 1842 to call Ohio Wesleyan’s first classes to order.

But this year, a second bell also was sounded to mark the events. The new bell was cast by Class of 2016 graduate Owen Kelling of Morrow, Ohio. The 200-pound, 21-inch diameter bell, now permanently installed outside Elliott Hall, represents the largest iron pour ever at the university’s Haycock Hall fine arts facility.

Jones also shared Ohio Wesleyan’s traditional benediction to close the ceremony, 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 dreamed dreams, help one another, and those dreams may come true. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have known love, give some back to a bruised and hurting world.”