May 27, 2003

AJC's Tucker addresses Oxford grads

By Michael Terrazas

“It’s your job,” Dean Dana Greene told those attending Oxford’s Commencement on Saturday, May 10, “to hold up the heavens—and keep it from raining.”

Greene spoke these words as tiny raindrops fell invisibly on the Oxford Quadrangle, but even those small distractions soon disappeared, and the day belonged to 208 students collecting their associate’s degrees after two years at Emory’s birthplace.

“I ask that you pause today and look back,” Greene said, holding up the Book of the College, in which each of the rising juniors had inscribed his or her name upon arrival at Oxford. “The person who signed this book is now a different person, having been biologically and psychologically changed.”

Greene told the students they have “inherited a legacy of heart and mind” by completing their work at Oxford, then introduced a speaker whose “commitment to a life of the mind and the welfare of the commonweal make her one of Oxford’s own”: Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker.

In her address, Tucker analyzed the concept of the “American Dream,” a term she said is too often used to describe merely the acquisition of material goods, “as if the most [defining fulfillment of the American Dream] is access to The Gap and Tommy Hilfiger.”

“The triumph of this great republic is that it offers you so much freedom,” said Tucker, winner of the April 2000 Distinguished Writing Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors and a 1988–89 Neiman Fellow at Harvard University. “Don’t worry about how much money you will make; that’s far from the most important thing. If you choose a career that enriches your life and contributes to your community, you will be rich.

“Take advantage of America’s diversity,” Tucker advised the Oxford graduates. “Continue to seek out those who don’t look like you, whose accent is different, whose religion is not the same as yours. It’s troubling that 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings is the most segregated hour in America.”

In awarding the Dean’s Medal to Tucker, Greene said the editor “believe[s] that heart and mind conjoined can change the world, and you work to make it so.”

Sophomore Ryan Burns Roche, a member of the Oxford Chorale and Oxford Student Government Association, received the Eady Sophomore Service Award from Associate Dean Joe Moon. During his time at Oxford, Roche was involved “in far more groups than I have time to name,” Moon said, and was the “sacrificial lamb sent forth to convince the faculty” to include student represenatives in Oxford decision-making processes.

Eloise Carter, professor of biology, received an Emory Williams Award for Distinguished Teaching from academic affairs Dean Kent Linville. Carter, who has taught at Oxford since 1988, was one of seven Emory Williams recipients Universitywide.

Just before the Oxford graduates individually received their degrees, interim Provost Woody Hunter broke with tradition and announced that Lucas Carpenter, Charles Howard Candler Professor of English, had been named the 2003 recipient of the University Scholar/Teacher Award (see story). Normally the winner is not publicly announced until the main University Commencement ceremony, Hunter said, but “it’s only appropriate to recognize the recipient here on his home campus.” Hunter then read the award’s inscription: a sonnet, composed specially for Carpenter.