On the Oxford Quad the morning of May 11, Margaret Edson spent
most of her Commencement address searching for a titleand
that was just fine with the 259 students finishing the first phase
of their collegiate careers.
What you call something is your idea of what it is,
Edson said both of her address and of the education the students
had received at Oxford over the preceding two years. What
is the substance were left with at the end of our education?
Nothing. Thats what makes it so beautifultheres
no good title for what is happening to you.
To be sure, Edson, author of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning play
Wit and a kindergarten teacher at Atlantas John Hope Elementary
School, did have a title for her remarks: Teaching and Learning.
A better title for some of you would have been Taught
and Learned, said Edson, who reminded the students that
your ignorance is your gift to usit keeps us employed.
Can I get away with a different title? Edson asked
in her conclusion. What would that title be? Can I call it
love? Thats our secret; dont let it leave this area.
Teaching and learning is love. Theres no good word for it;
its not an exchange of services. If my title were Love,
no one would come to hear me.
But come to hear her, they didto hear the woman who sent
a play worthy of a Pulitzer to 60 different theaters over eight
years before she found one willing to stage it, as Oxford Dean Dana
Greene explained in her introduction of Edson. To learn and
to teach, Greene said, referring to the title of Edsons
address, are the most primal human vocations. From birth to
death, we do both, and to the degree we do both well, we become
Following the playwrights remarks, Greene presented Edson
with the Deans Medal, awarded each year at Commencement to
honor extraordinary persons who through their life and work foster
the ideals of Oxford College.
Oxfords Commencement speaker was not the only one to leave
campus with some hardware on that hazy, rain-threatened morning;
in addition to the 259 students who received their associates
degrees, Jessica Poole received the Eady Sophomore Service Award
for her performances at local nursing homes through the Oxford Chorale
and the Guitar and Mandolin Society, as well as her English tutoring
at a local technical college and her service as vice president of
the Oxford Student Government Association. Poole received the award
from Joe Moon, Oxford associate dean for Campus Life.
Susan Riner, senior lecturer in mathematics, received an Emory
Williams Award for Distinguished Teaching. In presenting the honor,
Dean of Academic Affairs Kent Linville said Riners contributions
to academic life at Oxford have been sustained, valuable and
[Riner] is a truly exceptional talent, Linville said.
She has made a big difference, known and unknown, in the lives
Many of those students then filed onstage and received their degrees
from Greene and President Bill Chace. But before the ceremony even
began, the Oxford Class of 2002 gave something back to their two-year
alma mater in the form of a class gift that totaled $4,593 in gifts
and pledges. The gift will support a scholarship fund, as well as
the purchase of a practice piano for the second floor of newly renovated
Oxford has special meaning for the entire Class of 2002,
said sophomore and class gift committee chair Lauren Mock. And
we want to give this special gift to commemorate those feelings.