Oberlin College class of 2012 begins next chapter
Thousands of family members and friends gathered on Tappan Square to support the graduates of Oberlin College Monday morning, amidst the sweltering heat.
In total, 715 individuals received degrees from the institution, which is celebrating its 179th year, as morning temperatures climbed toward 90.
The candidates for degrees came from all over the world, some as close as Oberlin, while others traveled from places like the People’s Republic of China.
There were four candidates for degrees from the city of Oberlin, Rachel Luczkowski, Nathan Sabelli, Jeffrey Weaver, and Melissa George. George was the only of the four who was an Oberlin Scholar, meaning she received her tuition to the college for free since she attended, and graduated from, Oberlin High School all four years.
The four graduates from Oberlin were joined by 12 others from Lorain County to make a total of 16 who received degrees from Oberlin College who hail from the county.
As happens every year, the commencement was graced with the presence of many of the college’s distinguished alumni. Thomas Frieden, class of ‘82, delivered the commencement address to the graduates.
Prior to his address, Frieden was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of science in recognition of his work as a medical doctor who has been said to have saved some 1.5 million lives by battling tuberculosis in New York City and India. Frieden is also credited with being a driving force behind New York’s ban on smoking in public places.
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said of Frieden, “There is probably nothing any one person will ever do to save as many lives.”
In his address to the graduates, Frieden encouraged them to remain optimistic and believe change can happen.
“Optimism does not say that progress will happen; optimism says progress can happen. A positive attitude is a self fulfilling prophecy,” Frieden said. “It’s been said that a positive attitude won’t solve all of your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”
In addition to Frieden, several other alumni received honorary degrees from Oberlin College during the commencement exercises Monday. Martha Bergmark, class of ’70, Margaret Cheney, class of ’76, Stanley Cowell, class of ’62, and Ntozake Shange all received such degrees.
Additionally, James Burrows, class of ’62, received the honorary degree of doctor of fine arts. Burrows is a critically acclaimed creator, producer, and director of American entertainment; most notably, he is the creator of “Cheers” which still holds the honor of being the second most watched series finale in the history of television.
Daniel Gardner, class of ’89 and former Oberlin city council president and mayor, received the alumni medal. This year’s recipient of the award for distinguished service to the community was Richard Dunn, who served as the city manager for Oberlin for many years.
Class of 2012 Jackie Mostow spoke to her fellow graduates during the commencement ceremony as well, sharing some of her story of being stranded in a small community near Incan ruins in Peru when flooding washed out the train tracks. Mostow said she learned to be creative, be kind, and be appreciative during the ordeal, and encouraged the class of 2012 to do the same.
Oberlin College president Marvin Krislov told the graduates they are a part of the Oberlin community now, and will always be able to call Oberlin home.
“Always know that you are welcome to come back and reconnect with your friends and family here. Wherever you live, Oberlin will always be another home for you,” he said. “On this glorious, and hot day, we wish you a great deal of success and happiness. Congratulations class of 2012.”