By Martha Nodar
In celebration of Oglethorpe University’s commencement May 9, a U.S. senator and a member of Oglethorpe’s board of trustees received honorary degrees for their public service and addressed the graduating class. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Warren Jobe shared their life experiences and urged the graduates to continue learning and remain in touch.
The university graduated 223 students at the 90th commencement held on its Brookhaven campus.
Oglethorpe President Lawrence Schall credited the faculty for expertise in teaching the school’s core curriculum, which he said owes much of its success to its “rigor and interdisciplinary nature.”
Oglethorpe alumna Veronica Menezes Holmes, an assistant professor of the core program, said the core curriculum is uniquely designed to give traditional students a common foundation in philosophy, politics, science, art, music and more, independent of individual majors.
“The core teaches our students about ethics, critical thinking and to evaluate their place in the world,” Holmes said. “Our graduates are well-rounded, liberal arts scholars who are equipped with a tool kit they can use anywhere. Oglethorpe graduates are accepted to both medical and law schools at a higher percentage than the national average.”
Seniors Shaquitta Brookins, Jessica Daniel, Ember Melcher and Andrea Walsh exemplify the core’s fundamental mission: to prepare students at the Brookhaven institution to become responsible citizens.
Brookins is involved with the Rich Foundation Urban Leadership Program.
“My favorite project is to work with Habitat for Humanity,” she said. “I now have a greater respect for manual labor.”
Daniel and Melcher are members of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society, and are this year’s recipients of Oglethorpe’s most prestigious awards for civic engagement.
“I feel humble and honored to be the recipient of the leadership award,” Daniel said. “I know many of my peers who would have been just as qualified for this award.”
“I am deeply touched and proud to have received the citizenship award,” Melcher said. “This is a validation of the choices I have made while in college.”
Walsh is a member of Alpha Chi, the national academic college honor society, and a volunteer for Hospice Atlanta.
“I value the time I spend offering companionship,” she said.
Holmes emphasized that the core curriculum guides students to evaluate the difference between living life at the surface and living life with a passion.
Isakson urged the graduates to let their passion for learning carry them through the years.
“I challenge you to use your diploma like a passport. Expand your knowledge and let it inspire you time and time again,” he said.
Jobe, an executive vice president with Georgia Power and a former chairman of the Oglethorpe board, referred to the lasting relationships that are typical of members of the Oglethorpe community: “Life friendships are made here.”
Another board member, 1991 Oglethorpe graduate Joseph Shelton, said: “Oglethorpe will always hold a special place in my heart. … That is where I met my wife. I’m also convinced that the core curriculum laid the groundwork that helped me to succeed in law school.”
Professors, seniors and the university president reminisced before saying farewell.
“Commencement allows us to recall fond memories, such as the time I taught Nietzsche in my own garden,” Holmes said.
“As the first person in my family to go to college, I wanted to do my best and make my parents proud,” Daniel said. “I feel I have accomplished my goals.”
Schall said: “We hope we have lived up to your expectations as we watch with great pride as you prepare to move on to the next stage in your journey. We will be forever grateful to you and your families for entrusting us with a part of your life.”