Bethany’s Class of 2012, 137 strong, processed through Oglebay Gates one final time as students gathered for the May 11 Baccalaureate Service in Commencement Hall. The next morning, on a sun-drenched Saturday, they passed along the Alumni Walk in front of majestic Commencement Hall before receiving their diplomas at the Tilock Amphitheatre in the newly-dedicated Pennington Quadrangle. Among them were the first seven students of our new Master of Arts in Teaching program, the first accredited graduate degree in the history of the College.
Dr. James P. Johnson, president emeritus of Lexington Theological Seminary and of the Christian Church Foundation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), spoke to graduates, friends and families during the Baccalaureate service while Commencement speaker and Bethany Trustee Sy Holzer, PNC Bank Pittsburgh president, was among many in attendance who noted the palpable “electricity and excitement” pervading the College’s 172nd Anniversary Commencement Weekend.
Quoting Trustee Vice Chair Bob McCann ’80, Holzer reminded the graduates that “the only thing small about your education is the size of the town your college is located in. You’re being educated big-time to be world-class.”
Holzer continued, “It is at moments like these in the rich history of our great country, when we need a new generation to offer new ideas and new energy to meet the challenges we face as a country…I am excited for you because I know that you are ready to add creativity and imagination to the background and training that you have received at our great Bethany College.” In recognition of his support of Bethany and its service-learning program, Sy was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humanities degree.
Valedictorian Meghan L. Philp of New Martinsville, WV, was recognized with the Oreon Scott Award, given annually to the senior graduating with the highest academic standing. A total of nine students graduated with perfect 4.0 grade point averages.
Honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees were bestowed upon The Rev. William Burwell Allen, former regional minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and Dr. Johnson, our Baccalaureate speaker. Bill Allen has served as pastor and college chaplain at Bethany Memorial Church and at Bethany College.
Following Commencement exercises, a tree was planted and a commemorative plaque placed at the Erickson Alumni Center to celebrate the Class of 2012, as a symbol of members’ continuing growth and enduring connection to their alma mater.
Commencement weekend capped a spring filled with traditional events and activities, including the 65th annual Darline Nicholson Spring Breakfast honoring Bethany College senior women on May 5. This year, it was especially gratifying to visit with long-time former Dean of Students Nicholson, namesake for the breakfast in her honor. Featured speaker for the 2012 event was Susan Ryan Lister '89, senior specialist in global communications for the Whirlpool Corporation and former associate commissioner of the Big Ten Conference.
That evening, Dr. Kathleen Downey ’75 and Sharon Bogarad ’76 were honored at the annual Alumni Awards dinner as part of the College’s Alumni Weekend events honoring the Class of 1962. Dr. Downey, of Cincinnati, Ohio, earned her M.D. from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School in 1979. As medical director of the Wyoming Family Practice Center, she was named “teacher of the year” three times, working in locations around the world, including New Zealand, the Bering Sea in Alaska and a Navajo Native American reservation. Ms. Bogarad, an attorney in Weirton, WV, served as a member of the Bethany College Alumni Council for 18 years, as Council president from 2000-2002, and as chapter advisor for Phi Mu for 11 years. She has participated in Kalon and other enrollment programs, and was a member of a presidential search committee.
Also honored at the dinner were Marc B. Chernenko '78 and Joyce Dumbaugh Chernenko '78, co-recipients of the 2012 Alumnus of the Year Award established by the Office of the President to recognize alumni who have demonstrated loyalty to the College and exceptional achievement throughout their lives, both professionally and in service to the community.
Even as we conclude another productive academic year, we position the College for continued success in a competitive marketplace; we recently signed an agreement with Carnegie Mellon University for six dual degrees offering accelerated programs. The programs allow qualified applicants to graduate with both a bachelor’s degree from Bethany and a master’s degree from CMU in five years.
Summer, always a busy time on campus, will again welcome youth from around the nation and world for the fifth year of Camp Canyon, a program combining traditional and specialized activities. In addition, 25 students are enrolled in our first online summer session. Bethany students are allowed to take 12 hours of online classes from Bethany College during their four years here.
I look forward to visiting Bethanians during alumni events around the country. And to alumni and friends everywhere, thank you for your financial support during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which concludes June 30. There’s still time to make your gift to The Bethany Fund if you have not already done so. We value your commitment to our College!
Just as our graduates walked through the Oglebay Gates during Commencement Weekend for the last time, we look forward to welcoming the Class of 2016 in August when they will take this traditional walk for the very first time — continuing the kinds of rituals that have defined our College for 172 years. On behalf of the Bethany College community, I wish you a wonderful summer, and invite you to watch for further updates as we look ahead to the new academic year.