Denison Class of 2021 Commencement Recap


After more than a year under a global pandemic, the Denison Class of 2021 was thrilled to participate in an in-person Commencement Ceremony. Denison University’s 180th Commencement exercises took place on Saturday, May 22, on the university’s academic quad. A brilliant sun tempered by cool breezes was enjoyed by faculty and families as they cheered 489 graduating seniors. Loved ones were able to participate as they watched the live stream video.

Denison Trustee Tom Szykowny, a member of the Class of 1979, welcomed families and guests to the ceremony on behalf of the Board of Trustees. Denison President Adam Weinberg spoke of the university’s commitment to welcome everyone back to campus in the Fall of 2020, while the nation and the world were still in the grips of COVID-19. “A goal means you set your sights on something and do your fullest to make it happen. You only fail when you’ve exhausted every single option. That’s the flag we put in the ground.”

Graduating senior Sara Abou Rashed, an international studies and English double major, delivered the student keynote speech. She noted, “… hold onto the good times and remember the end of our time here not as time lost, but as time repurposed; and our relationships not as severed, but perhaps tested; and our joy not as diminished but simplified.”

Each year at Commencement, through the conferral of honorary degrees, Denison recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to their field. The Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas ’79, author and nationally recognized theologian, was conferred with a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Dr. Douglas served as the virtual keynote speaker for the ceremony. “You can change the world,” she said as she spoke of the little words that matter — words of respect, gratitude, responsibility, humility, and awe. “Change does not begin with big thoughts and big words, it begins with little words. Let the little words we speak reflect the nation and the people we want to be.”

In addition, three honorary degree recipients reflected the university’s gratitude to key partners who provided critical expertise and support in helping Denison—and the state of Ohio—navigate COVID-19 successfully. Dr. Peter Mohler, Dr. Alison Norris, and Dr. Abigail Norris Turner were awarded honorary degrees, Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

Retiring faculty were welcomed to the ranks of emeriti as they were thanked for their years of service to the college.

  • Brenda Boyle, Professor of English - 18 years of service
  • Tom Bressoud, Associate Professor of Math and Computer Science - 19 years of service
  • Robert Russo, Assistant Professor of Physical Education and Health, Exercise, and Sport Studies, Head Men’s Soccer Coach - 22 years of service
  • Mike Caravana, Associate Professor of Physical Education, Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach- 28 years of service
  • Kirk Combe, Professor of English - 30 years of service
  • Joy Sperling, Professor of Art History & Visual Culture - 32 years of service
  • David Baker, Professor of English - 37 years of service
  • Anthony “Tony” Lisska, Professor of Philosophy - 52 years of service

The celebration concluded with the assembly singing the Denison alma mater and an exuberant tossing of the mortarboards.

Looking to the future

The Class of 2021 graduates are entering a new stage of their lives, working as financial, business, and data analysts, software developers and engineers, consultants, research assistants, and more. They will be employed by companies such as Morningstar, Thomson Reuters, Putnam Investments, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Bloomberg, and Nielsen. Many will attend graduate, law, and medical schools at Harvard, Bryn Mawr, Johns Hopkins, Oxford, Columbia, and Yale. Others will pursue service opportunities with Teach for America and City Year or international fellowship programs including Fulbright, Colet Fellowship in London, Princeton in Africa, and Davis Projects for Peace.

Sharing memories

We share fond memories of our 2021 graduates at the moment when they first stepped onto campus, in August of 2017. Enjoy a look back at their Induction Ceremony, Move-in day, and the iconic Denison class of ‘21 video.

Posted Date 
Wednesday, May 26, 2021

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2022 Senior Reflections

Each year, students compete for the honor of being chosen as the student speaker at Commencement. Here are the submitted keynotes from three students.

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