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Students, retiring professor to speak at commencement

Barry McNamara
05/11/2012
Professor Rajkumar Ambrose is retiring after more than a half-century in higher education, of which the last 26 years were spent at Monmouth.
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.

Senior Jonathan Welty of Dixon will serve as master of ceremonies for the May 20 event, which will begin at noon on the Wallace Hall plaza. In case of inclement weather, the college’s 155th commencement exercises will be held in the Huff Athletic Center.

“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 of Evanston, 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 of Chicago 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 and/or tenured at the May meeting of the college’s board of trustees.

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. Ambrose 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.”

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

“Mr. Steele taught me to look at the world from a variety of perspectives and to refrain from dividing the world into black and white viewpoints,” wrote Drea in his nomination. “He expected us to be aware of the world around us and often quizzed us on current events to ensure that we were reading the news and knew the issues we faced.”

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. That ceremony will be held on May 19 at 3 p.m. in the Dahl Chapel and Auditorium. Titled “What Matters Now Is What Lies Ahead,” McConnell will preach on Philippians 3: 12-16.

McConnell followed his grandparents and father to Monmouth, majoring in government. He went on to earn his master of divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Seminary. He served churches in Minnesota and Michigan before taking his current position as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, Kan. McConnell has been a member of the college’s board of trustees since 1992.

Other events on Saturday will include the President’s Senior Gala at 5:30 p.m. in Glennie Gymnasium and a free concert by the Monmouth Chorale and the Monmouth Winds at 8 p.m. in the Kasch Performance Hall of the Dahl Chapel and Auditorium. The gala revives and expands Monmouth’s tradition of a ceremonial dinner for the graduating class. One of the highlights of the event will be the acceptance of the senior class gift by President Ditzler.

On Sunday, seniors will gather for a class photo on the steps of the Huff Athletic Center at 10:30 a.m. At 11:30 a.m., participants will line up for the traditional processional from Broadway to the Wallace Hall Plaza. Their march will be accompanied by music from the Monmouth College Pipe Band. The Monmouth Winds will provide incidental music.