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Students, retiring professor to speak at commencement

Barry McNamara
For the second consecutive year, Monmouth College’s commencement ceremony will feature members of the campus community, as several students and a retiring faculty member will have speaking roles.

“We are focused on celebrating our students and their professors,” said President Mauri Ditzler of the college’s unique approach. “More than a half-dozen students will be speaking in some format. I doubt if another college beats that.”

Senior Jonathan Welty will serve as master of ceremonies for the May 20 event, which will begin at noon on the Wallace Hall plaza.

“Jonathan’s strong academic and co-curricular work makes him an ideal representative of the class,” said President Mauri Ditzler, who will also offer remarks and confer the degrees.

Alex Holt, president of the Associated Students of Monmouth College and Student Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois, will be a featured speaker, and class president Jessica Avila will deliver the farewell address on behalf of the seniors. Avila has been involved with many campus activities, including Pi Beta Phi and the Chamber Orchestra. Graduating seniors will also provide short testimonials for the faculty who will be promoted or tenured at the May meeting of the college’s board of trustees.

In keeping with a recent MC tradition, a pre-college teacher will bring greetings and congratulations to the graduates. This year’s teacher, Stephen Steele, teaches journalism at Taylorville High School and was nominated by graduating senior Andrew Drea.

Retiring physics professor Rajkumar Ambrose will be the faculty speaker. Ambrose joined Monmouth’s faculty in 1986, shortly after receiving his Ph.D. from Texas Christian University, where he taught astronomy for four years. He also has a master of divinity degree. He has spent more than a half-century in higher education, serving as a professor in India from 1958 to 1982. In addition to teaching and chairing Monmouth’s physics department, he served as associate dean of the faculty for eight years and for two years was vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty.

“Many on campus are aware of Raj’s leadership role in planning and implementing the integrated learning focus of our curriculum,” said Ditzler. “His close friends are also aware that he and his wife, Saro, are equally proud of their successful, multi-year effort to construct and arrange staffing for a health care facility in an underserved community in rural India.”

The Rev. Dr. Teri Ott, MC’s chaplain, has announced that the baccalaureate speaker will be the Rev. Robert “Cam” McConnell, a 1972 Monmouth graduate from Manhattan, Kan. That ceremony will be the afternoon before commencement.