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Class of 2012 Receives Final Instructions for the Journey Ahead

Graduates fortified by the value of a Wooster education at 142nd commencement ceremony

May 15, 2012 by John Finn

View the Commencement 2012 photo gallery and video highlights.

WOOSTER, Ohio – Members of the Class of 2012 received plenty of encouragement — and some timely advice — as they reflected on the past four years and pondered the future during The College of Wooster’s 142nd Commencement ceremony on Monday morning (May 14) in the Oak Grove.

“You could not have a better preparation for the changing world you will lead,” said Wooster President Grant Cornwell in his opening remarks. “The value of your Wooster education will reveal itself many times in the coming years.”

But, cautioned Cornwell, “you are going forth into a world that is scary and uncertain. A new paradigm is taking shape in a world unfamiliar to your parents.”

Cornwell’s comments were echoed by two seniors preparing to walk that walk — Kathleen Blachman and Aaron Novick, who were chosen to speak on behalf of the Class of 2012.

“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter — less clear and more uncertain than when we first gathered on the steps of Kauke Hall four years ago,” said Blachman, an English major with a minor in education and the recipient of the Jonas O. Notestein Prize, which recognizes the senior with the highest grade point average. “We can’t stay in the Wooster bubble forever, but our experiences here prove that we can cope. Wooster has challenged us to push our limits and our comfort zones, and take advantage of learning opportunities…Let’s walk through the arch today and see what’s waiting on the other side.”

Novick, who majored in biology and philosophy, reminded his fellow seniors that a liberal arts education teaches one how to apply the knowledge they have acquired. “The primary value of our education lies not in learning specific bits of knowledge, but in learning to adopt a particular orientation to the world,” he said. “This orientation lets us use any knowledge we might learn.”

Chandra Talpade Mohanty, who, along with Tom Alter, received an honorary degree, followed that theme when she told the graduates that they may be done with school, but they’re not finished with the search for knowledge. “You have learned to share your knowledge with others across cultures,” said Mohanty, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Syracuse University who received a Doctor of Humanities. “Use your skills to engage the world, to make a difference, and to engage in a democracy that is inseparable from justice.”

In addition to Blachman receiving the Notestein Prize, several other seniors were recognized for excellence, including Melissa Ann Venecek, who received the Dan F. Lockhart Outstanding Senior Award. Also honored were Lauren Grimanis, Jacqueline Narnor, Kevin Carpenter and Matthew Porter, who received the William A. Galpin Award for general excellence in college work, based on scholarship, social and religious leadership, and proficiency in vigorous physical pursuits.

In all, 375 seniors received diplomas on a day when overcast skies gave way to rays of bright sunshine — perhaps symbolic of the promise and potential of this year’s graduates.