Though it was spitting rain and a bit chilly, nothing could stop the Class of 2016 as its members made their way into the Mitchell Center to accept their diplomas and count themselves among the Denison alumni ranks on Saturday, May 14, 2016.
The ceremony began with Doug Mabie ’86, Denison trustee, who congratulated the class and acknowledged his daughter, Rachel, who would join Doug and his wife, Annie Ravenscroft Mabie ’87, as a Denison alum. “You will be professionals, parents, artists, activists, citizens, and friends,” Mabie told the graduates. “You will occupy roles that none of us can even imagine right now.”
Co-governors of the Class, Steven Hix and Ashley Bartreau announced a Senior Class gift of more than $6,000 to benefit Denison’s Annual Fund. “We are extremely thankful for all the gifts the College has given us,” said Hix, “especially the chance to build a community throughout our years here. We hope to pay it forward on our own, as we become alumni.”
In addition to the 542 degrees awarded on Saturday, Denison awarded an honorary degree to Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun, author of Dead Man Walking, and an activist who works to abolish the death penalty. When she took the podium, Prejean compared the Class of 2016 to eagles, flapping their wings and ready to take flight. “From everything I’ve heard about this college, this University,” said Prejean, “You’ve been given everything. Let it sit in you like a seed. Whatever you’re going to face, the spirit of God is in your heart. I pray for you, and may you be blessed with passion.”
The college also acknowledged two retiring professors, Don Bonar, professor emeritus of mathematics and computer science, and Tod Frolking, professor emeritus of geosciences, who together have dedicated more than 80 years to the college.
Dylan Parson ’16, in his senior class address, summed up his time on the Hill as a series of small snapshots that make up the greater whole. “I think that kind of thing is a lot of what I’ll take away from this place and remember decades from now—little sparks of poignant memory, like a flash of revelation found in the words of a professor or classmate in a seminar, or a brief flash of nostalgia for rocking out to Simon & Garfunkel in the common room with good friends, well beyond quiet hours,” he told his fellow graduates. “We will all have these sparks: faces we’ll never forget, conversations that will stick with us forever, moments of serendipity over these past four years that will fundamentally shape the direction of the rest of our lives in ways we never could have anticipated.”
Later in the ceremony, a giant inflatable slice of pizza crowd-surfed the mosh pit of new alumni, in a fitting farewell to college life.
While it was a fantastic day, it was bittersweet. On Tuesday, just five days prior to graduation, three Denison students and a friend were involved in a car accident. One of those students, Julianny Pimental Cuevas ’16 was set to graduate with her class, but suffered serious injuries in the accident. Her sister, Rosalia, accepted the diploma on her behalf as the crowd gathered in Mitchell rose in support.
Head out, do well, do good, and come back often.