May 27, 2008
60, Number 31
May 27, 2008
BY Mary Loftus
A “golden morning” awaited the graduates of Oxford College on May 10, noted Dean Stephen Bowen, as they and their professors gathered under the Temple of the Trees at Emory’s home campus in Covington to take part in the college’s 163rd Commencement.
The ceremony recognized 324 Oxford graduates who received their Associate of Arts degrees on this fair, slightly breezy Saturday morning.
The hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth” seemed especially appropriate, as Oxford Chaplain Judy Shema told the Oxford Class of 2008 that they would honor the degree they received today by how they choose to live their lives.
The Commencement speaker, Emory College Dean Bobby Paul, asked the class to consider what it means to be a liberal arts scholar in America in the 21st century.
Paul, a cultural anthropologist and psychoanalyst by training who maintains a private practice, said the idea of the research university — imported from Europe — took root and flourished in America toward the end of the 19th century.
“Our system — the one in which you have been educated here at Oxford — is based on the premise that higher education serves not only to train future professionals, but also to produce the future informed citizenry upon whom the essence and hope of democracy depends,” he said.
However, Paul added, we face a future in which America “may well no longer occupy the preeminent position in the world to which we have become accustomed,” with technology being produced “better and cheaper” elsewhere and increased competition from other rising countries.
What will assure the U.S. and its citizenry a continued leading role in the modern world? What we have always had, says Paul: American ingenuity — the “creativity and sound, innovative judgment of a people who expect each individual to pursue freely. . . self-imposed goals” with the qualities a liberal arts education confers.
“We must know our talents and weaknesses, and encounter what really makes life meaningful for us, or else the spark of creativity has no fuel to allow it to grow and burn brighter,” Paul said, encouraging graduates to be self-aware and self-confident.
Dean of Campus Life Joseph Moon stepped forward to present the Eady Sophomore Service Award to Allison Anne Vinson. Vinson, president of the Oxford Chorale, actively involved in the culinary club and CORE, the environmental awareness club, a lab assistant, and member of Leadership Oxford, represents “what’s best about this generation of Oxford students.” Those who supported her nomination described Vinson as “creative, positive, loving, spontaneous and caring.”
Vinson’s family, including father Art Vinson ’66Ox–’68C, sister Alexandra Hope Vinson ’05Ox, and Jonathan Vinson ’91Ox-’99M, has a long and enduring Oxford legacy, and Alexandra was, in fact, the Eady Sophomore Service Award recipient in 2005.
Brothers Mark Daniel ’79Ox–’81C and Bill Daniel ’73Ox–’75C, were also in attendance, the only other siblings ever to both receive Eady awards.
Dean of Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer Kent Linville presented the Emory Williams Award for Distinguished Teaching to Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Philosophy Kenneth Anderson. His students said Anderson’s “knowledge of the subject matter motivated me,” that he had “helped expand my perspective on life,” and that he “loves teaching, and what he’s teaching.”
And then, as Seney Hall’s bell struck the hour, and bouquets of fresh flowers were gathered up, and digital cameras flashed, the graduates made their procession.
“Go now,” said Shema, who presented the benediction, “and celebrate your accomplishment.”