By J.D. Moor
It wasn’t a picture perfect day, but it was memorable.
Under drizzling skies, Oglethorpe University President Lawrence Schall opened the institution’s 2012 commencement ceremonies on May 12 with tongue-in-check optimism.
“I’m going to read from my script: What a beautiful day!” he said.
Some 250 graduating students received their degrees on the soggy campus quad in Brookhaven. They, along with friends, family and faculty, listened to special guests, while a sea of colorful umbrellas sprang open in the spring rain. People without any rain gear ran for cover under water station tents.
“One thing I hope for all of you today is that you will leave here fearless,” Schall told the audience.
Oglethorpe, in its 177th year, also awarded honorary degrees to three people, including former media mogul Ted Turner.
Turner was confident the graduates would overcome life’s future challenges. “Once they come to a conclusion about what they want to do, they can go out and do it with all their might,” he said in an interview before ceremonies began.
But faced with rain, the usually outspoken, sometimes outrageous Turner cut short his remarks from the podium.
“This is the 46th honorary degree I’ve received, but this is the first time it’s rained,” was all he said.
He then walked off.
“That’s the shortest speech ever given,” Schall said.
Weather-related troubles cut short other speakers, too. At one point, the soaked sound system crackled and silenced Alumni Association President John Cleveland Hill in mid-sentence. He concluded by encouraging graduates to “Make a life, make a living and make a difference.”
Two students seemed to feel far more certain about their futures than what the weather would do next.
Joelann Toppin, a 29-year-old from Brookhaven, got her degree in business administration. Born in Trinidad, she fast-tracked her studies, finishing a year early.
“When I saw the architecture of the Oglethorpe campus, I knew I wanted to come here. It reminded me of Harry Potter,” she said.
Toppin plans to attend law school, take the CPA exam and become a tax attorney. She also hopes to marry her fiancé in two years.
Toppin said she loves challenges and solving puzzles. She credits her undergraduate experience for preparing her to meet some uphill battles. “I try to live as green as possible, I’ve become a vegetarian and I’m more in tune with my needs than my wants. If I earn $5, I will try to live my life as though I made $3,” she said.
Caitlin Adcock, 21, lives in Sandy Springs and majored in political science. Like Toppin, Adcock wrapped up her bachelor studies in three years.
“The classes were so interesting, I didn’t even know I had enough credits until last spring,” she said.
The Miami native said she went to a small private high school. “Oglethorpe bought my airline ticket to come visit Atlanta and I fell in love with the city. I’m definitely here for the long haul,” she said.
Adcock had a scholarship and saluted the attentiveness of faculty for her success. “I had two teachers who were my class advisors and became my secondary parents,” she said.
Although she’s always harbored the dream to be an astronaut, Adcock said she’s heading to law school after she marries her fiancé this August. “I am so excited and I have no fear of failure for the future,” she said.