Ursinus Marks 150th Commencement
There is nothing inauthentic about the Ursinus College experience.
In a world in which technological advancements have made it possible to use AI to write correspondence or create “deep fake” photos and videos, Ursinus students graduate with skills too often missing from society today.
“Nothing comes close to duplicating the very things you learned here at Ursinus: Human connection. Emotion. Reflection. And the ability, above all else, to question,” President Robyn Hannigan said to the Class of 2023 during their commencement ceremony on May 13. Hannigan was referencing ChatGPT and noted that, while it might be an innovative tool, there is no replacement for what is foundational to a liberal arts education.
“The mind is curious,” she said. “It wants not just to know, but to learn. There are so many problems that exist today that require original approaches to solutions that you will now find because you have a fresh, unique perspective—one born at the intersection of disciplines right here at Ursinus.”
The ceremony was attended by hundreds of family members, friends, and loved ones, as well as faculty, staff, current students, and alumni—each of them present to celebrate the achievements of the Ursinus graduates.
“Our world wouldn’t exist the way it does if people didn’t have big dreams, wild dreams,” said Charlotte Driver, who was selected by her classmates to be this year’s student speaker. “The type of dreams that make people scoff and say, ‘yeah right;’ to whom we respond, ‘watch me,’ because the only thing more powerful than a person with an idea is a person with an idea and an insatiable appetite. I don’t think I’ve ever met an Ursinus student that doesn’t have an appetite—figuratively and literally!”
Roosevelt Montás, a Columbia University scholar and one of the world’s foremost advocates for the virtues of liberal arts education, served as the keynote speaker and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters and address the graduating class. Montás is a senior lecturer in American studies and English at Columbia and serves as director of its Freedom and Citizenship Program. He speaks widely on the history, place, and future of the humanities in higher education.
“Liberal education…takes seriously the idea that rational inquiry into the fundamental questions of life is a worthwhile endeavor for each of us,” Montás said. “There is probably no more powerful tool for such an inquiry than open discussion, in small groups, of seminal works from our literary and philosophical past. Which is why I so admire this institution’s commitment to making liberal education the axis upon which the intellectual life of its students and faculty turns.”
A baccalaureate ceremony preceded commencement on Friday, May 12. The Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland, a faith leader, public theologian, and justice advocate, was the keynote speaker and received an honorary Doctor of Divinity. Maia Peele (this year’s QUEST award winner) and Zara Tabackin served as featured student speakers during baccalaureate and Aylin Castillo introduced Copeland. Featured readers during baccalaureate were Serena Rose Gaskin, Roba Khder, Naomi Marin, Julia Paiano, and Evan Stinson.
Michael Green introduced Montás during commencement. Also, for the Class of 2023, sharing the honor of valedictorian were Rachel Arthur, Connor Donovan, Kate Isabel Foley, Alexandria Fowler, and Mackenzie Owens. The salutatorians were Alyssa-Mackenzie DeLorme, Kevin Hoffman, William Krueger, Haleigh Olsen, and Samuel Gregory.
Faculty award winners were Lynne Edwards ’88 (H. Lloyd Jones Jr. Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising); Lisa Grossbauer (Laughlin Distinguished Teaching Award); and Nicholas Scoville (Laughlin Award for Professional Achievement).
“What we celebrate today is the promise that you represent, the promise of the unique and as of yet unimaginable contributions you will make as you put your shoulders to that that arc of history,” Montás said.