Class of 2015 charged to make the world a better place

At the 149th Ripon College Commencement, Dr. Christopher Howard defended the importance of a liberal arts and sciences education on leadership. Click here to watch archived video from Commencement.

Howard, president of Hampden-Sydney College and a Rhodes Scholar who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and later earned a Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan, received an an honorary doctorate degree.

He spoke first at a senior brunch and forum and later gave the Commencement address during the Commencement ceremony. “Train for what you know; educate for what you don’t know,” he quoted. He said statistics show that many jobs for which people are receiving more specialized training today won’t even exist anymore in 20 years.

“How you are going to pivot?” he asked. “We should call the liberal arts the pivotal arts. We provide a foundation that allows people to do all sorts of things. We do have to answer the call of more training and certification.”

He said the liberal arts and sciences provide the ability to think critically, write well, speak well and understand the world around us. By developing selflessness, judgement, strength, respect and discipline, students of the liberal arts and sciences can “live the liberal arts and sciences for the greater good.”

He addressed the graduates with charges of three “Be’s”: be yourself, be accountable and be courageous. He said what they do should always reflect who they are made of, and that conviction will carry on beyond the campus.

His service in the military allowed him to model behavior of respect and discipline,” he said. “I thought that’s something you just did. I know people are paying attention to how I carry myself. One person can make a difference. … Whether that difference can change a country and the course of history or just makes one human being a better human being — well done, good and faithful servant.

“All you can do is your best. 110 percent doesn’t exist. 100 percent does. Did you try your best? Did you work smart and hard?”

The Senior Class Speaker was Nicole Malli ’15, of Urbandale, Iowa, who majored in anthropology and history, with a minor in museum studies. This fall, she will pursue a master’s degree in anthropology with an emphasis on international development at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

She said their time at Ripon College has transformed who the graduates are and brought out their strengths, weaknesses, passions and interests. “The most important quality is critical-thinking skills and discussions of issues,” she said. “What is clear is Ripon has given us a voice. It is our responsibility to voice our opinions. These voices may not be heard by thousands but still matter. We never know who they will inspire or how our words will impact others. We need to use what we have learned here to better ourselves and the world around us. We are the voice of the future and change is in our hands.”

Kane Krummel, a biology teacher at Stratford Junior-Senior High School in Stratford, Wisconsin, received the College’s 2015 Distinguished Educator Award.

Eighty-five percent of the senior class contributed to the senior class gift to the Annual Fund that, with a match, came to a total of $2,760.45.

Ripon College President Zach Messitte said, “The 2015 theme celebrates the role the liberal arts play in cultivating effective and ethical leaders in the military and in the workplace. We take seriously our charge to help prepare our students to be engaged citizens.

“While we hope you go out and succeed in the workplace, what we expect of our graduates is far more meaningful than just finding a good first job. We expect you to make a difference. We expect you to continue to learn and be curious. And we expect you to care about your community, your state, your country and the world.

“Each of you carries this special place with you forever. And I would ask that you remember what the College has meant to you and what it will mean to others who follow you.”

A total of 197 students received degrees; of those, 56 students had double majors.

For more information, visit the official 2015 Commencement page.

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