In this file photo from 2010, President Mauri Ditzler speaks to the Class of 2014 on their first day at Monmouth College. On May 18, the Class of 2014 had their final day as Monmouth students, and Ditzler presided over his final MC commencement.
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On a warm summer day in 2010, Monmouth College president Mauri Ditzler welcomed an incoming class of freshmen at the annual matriculation ceremony on Wallace Hall Plaza.
As that class – now the graduating Class of 2014 – moved on from the college on a perfect May afternoon, Ditzler joined them in moving on, presiding over his ninth and final commencement exercises at Monmouth.
To mark the occasion, a student gave back to Ditzler one of the college’s matriculation coins that he had received during the 2010 ceremony.
“He gave it to me as a token of good luck,” Ditzler told the crowd, which had turned out to see approximately 250 Monmouth students receive their diplomas.
Among those students was Will Terrill, Student Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois, who gave one of the two commencement addresses. Paul Weisenfeld, vice president of Global Programs at RTI International, gave the other.
Other speakers included Christine Malebranche of Chicago’s Jones College Prep, who received Monmouth’s annual Pre-College Teacher of the Year award; senior Beverly Krueger, who nominated Malebranche; senior Cyrus Turner, who provided the welcoming remarks; and senior Bradley Whitcomb, who gave a brief farewell on behalf of his classmates, referencing the famous Calvin Coolidge quote, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.”
Four other seniors congratulated Monmouth faculty members on their recent promotions, including Stevie Croisant, who said of English professor Marlo Belschner: “I cannot thank her enough for the time and effort she’s put into helping me become a better writer, helping me to study off campus and giving me pointers during my job search.”
Belschner was promoted to full professor, as was Kevin Baldwin (biology). Promoted to associate professor were Brad Sturgeon (chemistry) and Fred Witzig (history).
In his address, Weisenfeld spoke of the fast-changing world of communication and technology and told the graduates that “people can compete in knowledge technology if they have the knowledge to compete.” He also praised the college for its decision to focus on food security issues through its new Triads integrated learning model, saying “It’s exactly the right approach to trying to solve these global challenges.”
Terrill, who was actively involved in the college’s Educational Garden and was instrumental in the development of a research farm east of campus, told his classmates that for most of their lives, they had been motivated by fear. In their days as elementary and high school students, they were constantly made to fear what would happen if they didn’t learn cursive, or if they didn’t get good grades or receive a high ACT score.
After recounting a personally moving story of a moment in nature that occurred while he was working at Barefoot Gardens in Macomb, he urged his classmates to instead rely on intrinsic motivation.
“It’s never too late to shirk those nagging voices of fear. … Never forget to look up and watch the wind blowing through the trees.”
Terrill and Krueger were two of the nine students who graduated summa cum laude. The others were Bryce Ball, Aaron Bromeland, Christina Durante, Mitchell Heuermann, Jared Johnson, Zephan Knichel and Jacob Owens.
Owens did not speak at the ceremony, but he was certainly pleased with his Monmouth education.
“When it’s all said and done, I got just about the best possible education here,” Owens wrote on a social media post. “It set me up for so many different things in the future. I learned how to think and I learned how to learn. And I learned how to use my unique skills and talents to maximize my potential in whatever I do.”
Malebranche spoke to the “commencement” or “beginning” spirit of the day, realizing the graduates were asking “Where do I go from here?” She told them, “Wherever you go, do it with love and do it with passion … It’s not about giving back; it’s about giving forward.”
Her remarks came a day after similar sentiments were shared by the Rev. Dr. John Buchanan, pastor emeritus of Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church, who was the featured speaker at baccalaureate. Buchanan, who also serves as editor/publisher of The Christian Century magazine, gave the graduates gathered in Dahl Chapel some advice for their “one wild and precious life.”
He told them “happiness is big business,” with all types of books and self-help seminars offered on “the one thing that everybody wants.”
“How will you live fully? How do you plan to be happy?” he asked. “Find something to love, find someone to love. … Descartes said ‘I think, therefore I am.’ But Descartes was wrong. I love, therefore I am.’”
The Rev. Dr. Teri Ott, whose parents were active leaders in Buchanan’s church, called the speaker “an inspiration’ in her introduction. She also words for President Ditzler.
“In a way, you are graduating, too,” she said. “You have served us faithfully and well. Thank you.”
Earlier during commencement weekend, Monmouth College officially dedicated one of its existing residence halls as Pattee Hall, honoring a gift received from the Pattee Foundation in Monmouth.
“The Pattee family’s roots in this college are strong and firm,” said Bill Goldsborough, chairman of MC’s board of trustees, “and we are proud that the Pattee name will be associated with this college for years to come.”
Other commencement weekend highlights included a concert by the Chorale and the Wind Ensemble, and the senior class gift of more than $8,000 was announced at the Senior Gala. This year’s gift went toward a rock garden outside the north entrance to the Huff Athletic Center.