New beginnings: Congratulations, Class of 2012!

May 15, 2012

For more than 300 students who received Heidelberg University diplomas Saturday and Sunday, symbolism and tradition punctuated their graduation day. Each graduate received a white rose to signify the university’s respect, friendship, love and great hope for new beginnings.

In all, 65 graduate students in counseling, education, business administration and music education received master’s degrees on Saturday, the 25th graduate commencements at the university. On Sunday, 248 undergraduates joined the ranks of Heidelberg alumni in the 159th commencement ceremony in Heidelberg’s history. Students in the graduating class represented eight states and four foreign countries.

Throughout the weekend, the weather cooperated beautifully for the graduates and families who packed Seiberling Gymnasium for the commencement ceremonies as well as the Sunday morning Baccalaureate service, which featured a stirring sermon by ‘Berg alumna and Trustee the Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, ‘84.

Heidelberg was blessed this year to have a pair of individuals who have excelled as scholars, leaders and humanitarians as the keynote speakers for the commencement ceremonies.

Dr. Julian Earls, executive in residence at the Monte Ahuja College of Business Administration at Cleveland State University, told graduate students that “the road to success is always under construction.”

Earls, who peppered his remarks with entertaining anecdotes, encouraged the graduates to thank those who have helped them achieve success. “All of the professional success in the universe cannot compensate for the appreciation of those who helped you, he said. He was particularly humbled when he realized how much his wife, Zenobia, had sacrificed to help him earn his Ph.D. degree.

Graduates must have “a deep, abiding sense of humility about yourself with your new degree,” he said. “You must be responsive, interact with people, show support, cross disciplines.

“Use your lives so those who see you are so inspired that they want to be like you,” said Earls, a humanitarian who retired as director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Finally, he told the graduates to be persistent in their values.

Undergraduate students had the privilege of hearing the wisdom and experience of Dr. Carol Cartwright, president emeritus of Kent State University and former president of Bowling Green State University, one of the most highly respected voices in higher education today.

Cartwright turned the tables on the grads, posing several questions to them rather than dispensing the typical commencement advice. First, she asked if the students thanked those who supported them. Raised in a family of “can-do” people, Cartwright said that value led her on her path to success. “My pockets were filled in my childhood with coins of optimism and I’ve been spending them ever since,” she said, asking the graduates how they approach life – with the glass half full or half empty.

She also asked the graduates to contemplate these questions:

  • Do you understand the value of failure? “Mistakes are so important to progress.”
  • Do you have role models and mentors?
  • Are you willing to do your homework – because “nothing is a substitute for hard work.” “Your Heidelberg education is great preparation to seize leadership opportunities in your family, your job, your church, your neighborhood.”
  • Do you understanding the value of having fun?
  • Do you know how to live the value of “we”?
  • Who are you? “You cannot be a copy of someone else, so figure out how to be the best you that you can be.”

Cartwright left the graduates with two final questions: Do you have a dream? What questions are you posing for yourself and of yourself?

“Answering these questions,” she said, “enables you to live with purpose and integrity.”

Student speakers at both ceremonies – Jamie Fall, who received her master’s degree in counseling, and Cory Martinson, who received his bachelor’s degree in political science and legal studies – spoke of facing fear and being fearless as they addressed their classmates.

Fall said her fear of finding the time to balance family and work obligations turned when she let positive thoughts take over and allowed her drive for the work she does propel her forward. “Today, I can’t wait. I’m dying to see what I might do with this master’s degree from Heidelberg University. What are you dying to do?” she asked her classmates.

Before his words of wisdom, Martinson reflected on the important relationships made with faculty, staff and students while at Heidelberg. “Most of us grew to love this place because at Heidelberg, we are more than students. We are part of the Heidelberg family,” he said. “We stayed because of the people.”

In encouraging his classmates to be fearless, he advised them to “take risks, step outside of your comfort zones, strive fearlessly to achieve your dreams and stand up for what you believe in.”