May 24, 2004

Spelman president gives Oxford address

By Katherine Baust

Oxford’s commencement ceremony began with a bagpiper in traditional dress leading the colorful procession of 2004 graduates and alumni of the class of 1954 toward the College Green on the sunny morning of Saturday, May 8.

“This occasion marks three very special events: the 75th anniversary of Oxford College, the first Commencement for the new University President James Wagner, and the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board,” said Oxford Dean Dana Greene, referring to the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared public-school segregation unconstitutional.

Greene then introduced Oxford’s 2004 Commencement speaker, Beverly Daniels Tatum, president of Spelman College.

“Today is May 8, 2004—a day of personal significance for all of you,” said Tatum, a clinical psychologist whose research areas include race relations and race identity in teens, and the author of the critically acclaimed book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

“In 50 years you will look back and remember this day as marking an important passage in your life,” Tatum said. “Soon we will come to a day that stands out in mine: May 17, 1954, almost exactly 50 years ago today. That date changed my life, and in ways you may not have considered, it has changed yours. Many of you would not be sitting here today—or, at least, not together.”

Tatum extended her hopes for the graduating class. “I hope,” she said, “that as you move beyond the gates of Oxford College, you will claim your own place in history—through your leadership, your commitment to the values of peace and justice, and through the critical thinking you will bring to the contemporary social problems of our community.”
After Tatum’s address, Greene presented her with the Dean’s Medal, awarded to people who foster the ideals of Oxford College through their life and work.

Sophomore Michael Wood-worth, a fourth-generation Oxford graduate, received the Eady Sophomore Service Award. Joe Moon, Oxford dean of Campus Life, presented the award, telling Woodworth, “Your two years here have been a blur of activity, leadership and service.” Woodworth was president of the Oxford Student Government Association, a research scholar in biology, a supplemental instructor in genetics and a member of the scholastic honor society, Alpha Epsilon Upsilon.

Oxford’s recipient of the Emory Williams Award for Distinguished Teaching was Mo-hammed Reza Saadein, associate professor of biology, who received the award from Kent Linville, Oxford dean of academic affairs.