Induction Ceremony, Julie Houpt '75
I’m here tonight representing the Society of the Alumni and, as an alumna myself, I’m delighted to be among the first to welcome you to the Denison family and to your new home.
This college and the Denison family are more than 180 years old. The Denison family includes not only students and alumni, but faculty and staff, parents and grandparents of current and former students, Granville residents, and many other friends of the college. We have family members all over the country and the world.
One of our alums, Mary Jane Armacost ’62, who has lived in the San Francisco Bay area for more than 40 years, told me that every time she drives into Granville and sees Swasey Chapel in the distance, she thinks, “I’m home!”
“Of course,” she continued, “it isn’t my home, but it is the place where my adult life began.”
And this is the place where your adult life begins. And thanks to Mary Jane and her husband Sam Armacost ’61, and many other members of the Denison family, it’s a very special place indeed. Whether by offering internships to current students, loyally supporting the Annual Fund, or making a gift to build a building, this family is committed to teaching and learning in the liberal arts tradition. Generations of Denisonians have both given back and paid forward to ensure that this college is sustained and grows.
Let me tell you a couple of family stories.
Several years ago, an alumnus from Akron, Jim Oelschlager ’64, and his wife asked what the college needed most. At that time, one of our highest priorities was modern facilities for the biological sciences. The Oelschlagers gave Denison $18 million to build those facilities, and they named this building, to my right, Samson Talbot Hall of Biological Sciences. Samson Talbot was the 5th president of the college and he became president in 1863, at about the time that the Army of the Potomac led by Major General George Meade and the Army of Northern Virginia led by General Robert E. Lee met at the Battle of Gettysburg.
At that time, it was not clear that this country, let alone this college, would survive. By providing the funds to build Samson Talbot Hall in the 21st century, the Oelschlagers honored both President Talbot’s leadership in the 19th century and the students and faculty who would utilize this building for teaching and learning in the 21st century.
One more quick family story: Now- retired Professor of English Dominic Consolo made a big impression on one of his students. That student came to Denison in the 1960s intending to be pre-med, but Dr. Consolo’s 19th-century literature class caused him to change course, and he became an English major (well, maybe the challenge of organic chemistry had something to do with changing his major too…). That student, Michael Eisner ’64, became CEO of Disney, and 10 years ago he made a very generous gift to establish an endowed chair in honor of Dr. Consolo, the teacher who had changed the course of his life.
In fact, when Michael’s own son, Breck, was planning his college career and was thinking about becoming a filmmaker, he was looking at undergraduate film programs. A family friend named George Lucas said to him “Making films is like learning to drive. Anyone can do it. The real question is, what’s your destination? To find that out, you’re much better off with a liberal arts education.”
So welcome to your new home. Your adult life is about to begin. We hope you will use your four years here to determine your destination. And we hope that wherever life takes you, you will return home often and that you’ll join us in nurturing this college for future generations.
It’s a tradition at this ceremony to have two students serve as representatives of the Class of 2017. We ask the student whose hometown is nearest to campus and the student whose hometown is farthest from Denison, to serve in this role. I am pleased to introduce Olivia Jones, who has traveled 9,169 miles from Brisbane, Australia, to arrive in Granville, and Owen Stuart , who lives in Granville, about two miles from campus, to represent the class.
This is the banner for the Class of 2017. As you look around, hung from the pergolas are the class banners of students who have preceded you over the previous century. You will see your banner again upon the occasion of your graduation and then it will join the others as part of Denison's historical record.