Prepared for Success:
As the centuries-old bell in the clock tower atop Seney Hall tolled, Dean Stephen Bowen congratulated 317 Oxford students for “completing one stage of your education and commencing the next.” Bowen presided over the ceremonies on Saturday, May 12, as graduating sophomores and college faculty put on medieval-style robes, sounded the bagpipes, and held Oxford College’s 162nd Commencement.
Speaker J. Neal Purcell 61OX 63B, a member of the Emory Board of Trustees, Atlanta civic leader, and retired vice chair of KPMG, reminisced about his own years at Oxford—including an organic chemistry experiment in the Old Science Building that went awry. “It caused the evacuation of the entire building, at which time I reconsidered my plan to become a pharmacist,” he said. “I decided that business—any business—would be safer for me and everyone around me.”
Nevertheless, Purcell said, attending Oxford and then Emory was an outstanding experience that prepared him well for a career in accounting and, later, public governance. Those who find success, he told the graduates, share several traits: helping others, demanding excellence, and not basing their opinions solely on the opinions of others. “Also, never agree to do anything you’re not committed to finishing—and finishing when you said you were going to,” said Purcell. “In school, it might be better late than never, but in reality, it’s better never than late.”
The Eady Sophomore Service Award was presented to Safiya Jetha 07OX, who “demonstrated over and over again that when something worthwhile needed doing” she appeared, said Dean of Campus Life Joseph Moon.
Jetha was in the Oxford Chorale, Leadership Oxford, and served on the Freshman Council; she cooked with the Culinary Club, participated in POOCH (the college pet adoption program) and the Transforming Community project, was an officer in Outdoor Oxford, sang with Function of Five, and was involved in environmental conservation and sustainability efforts. She twice traveled with Oxford service groups to New Orleans.
Dean of Academic Affairs Kent Linville presented the Emory Williams Award for Distinguished Teaching to Professor William Shapiro, who has taught political science at Oxford for two decades. Former students said he “expects only the best and forces you to deliver the best,” “taught me to challenge myself and my academic conventions,” and praised his “confidence . . . and blunt candor.”—M.J.L.