Nancy Dye presides over last Oberlin commencement
OBERLIN — As hundreds of graduating seniors received diplomas and bid a fond farewell to Oberlin College, outgoing President Nancy Schrom Dye did the same.
Monday’s ceremony held on the lush green grasses of Tappan Square — an ideal setting for the college’s first officially “eco-friendly” commencement — marked the last time Dye would preside over the year-ending occasion.
For Dye, who following her June retirement plans to devote herself to international education and conflict resolution in south and central Asia, the day was bittersweet.
“For months I have felt just like a graduating senior as I walked the campus,” she said after receiving an honorary degree of doctor of humanities. “Sometimes I felt happy, sometimes sad and sometimes both at the same time.”
As such, Dye said she leaves Oberlin a much better person, fully understanding what it means to have a liberal education. It was one she said was happy to have received over the course of her 13 years as president.
“My Oberlin education has broadened and complicated my mind in ways I would have never dreamed of,” she said.
She received a standing ovation following her brief remarks.
However, the accolades didn’t stop.
Robert S. Lemle, chairman of the board of trustees, surprised Dye with an announcement that the board unanimously endowed a professorship in her name.
Oberlin College has seen enormous progress during Dye’s tenure, Lemle said.
“The last 13 years have been marked by historical development that has touched the college and the world,” he said.
During the ceremony, Connie Schultz, Plain Dealer columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, was also awarded an honorary degree.
She received a doctor of letters degree before delivering the commencement address, during which she asked everyone to recognize Memorial Day with a moment of silence for the American soldiers, Iraqis and Afghans who have died in the recent years war conflicts.
The daughter of a health care provider for the mentally ill and a factory worker, Schultz was the first in her family to go to and graduate from college. Schultz had a message and request for the graduating class.
“You are better than you know. And, because I know you are better than you know, you are going to live up to what I’m about to ask of you,” she said, before asking: How am I going to treat the people I am allowed to mistreat?
The people she referred to are the cooks, waitress, seamstresses and busboys of the world, who spend every day trying to make other people’s lives happy, she said.
Those people need respect, too.
“There isn’t one of you here today who hasn’t felt invisible,” she added. “So, every day you have the chance of making a difference in someone’s life by making them feel like they matter. … You are role models. The moment you decided to go to Oberlin College you became role models. Only you can decide what kind of role model you will be.”
Janeen Jones of Cleveland Heights anxiously waited with camera in hand and quickly snapped away as her husband, 25-year-old Phillip K. Jones II, received his bachelor of music degree.
She could sum up the sight with only one word as she wiped away tears.
It was also overwhelming for 28-year-old Daniel Tappe of Anrochte, Germany. He was the sole recipient of bachelor of music and master of music degrees in historical performance.
“This kind of ceremony is something that you will never see in Germany. I’m excited and overwhelmed. Oberlin is like music lovers’ paradise,” he said.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.