For the 608 graduates in the Class of 2018, their Commencement ceremony not only celebrated their accomplishments, but also elevated the significance of the privilege of a Gettysburg education—and the responsibility the graduates now have because of it.
This wasn’t the first time the class heard such remarks, though. The conversation about privilege and education began on their first days on campus at the First-Year Walk, when Civil War Era Studies Prof. Ian Isherwood ’00, referring to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, asked them to think about the cause they would “so nobly advance.”
President Janet Morgan Riggs ’77 echoed that question in her welcome.
“Since that evening, I hope that you have reflected—and will continue to reflect—on this important question, for the answer challenges you to live your values, and to pursue a life of purpose and impact,” Riggs said. “This gift of a liberal arts education carries with it a responsibility to put it to good use, to give back to a world which has given to you."
Morgan Hubbard ’18 spoke about similar themes in her address on behalf of the class.
“Our paths to get here were varied, and our paths from here will likely look just as eclectic. Wherever our paths lead, one thing will bind us,” Hubbard said. “It is our responsibility to forge our paths in the direction of hope, empathy, and respect. We owe it to the people at Gettysburg that made the privilege of a higher education possible, to those who made us feel it was impossible, and to ourselves.”
The keynote address was given by news analyst and reporter Howard Fineman. Befitting his expertise, he spoke about the tensions experienced across the country and how our graduates are uniquely situated—by virtue of their education and the historic setting in which they earned it in—to inspire thoughtful, positive leadership.
“If Abe, Ike and Gettysburg are any guide—and they are—you and we not only will survive this 21st century conflict, we will emerge stronger from it,” Fineman said. “[They] tell us how and give us faith to weave anew the frayed fabric of public life. They give us the sense of history and urgency to do so.”
He distilled ten lessons, among them: honor the truth; read books; don’t let defeat define you; appeal to hope, not fear; and get involved.
“After this ceremony you will make ready to leave this lovely, peaceful, prosperous, town and college called Gettysburg, now so far from the strife and woe of long ago,” Fineman said. “Remember the lessons of Abe and Ike. And remember that you now have a duty to lead what Lincoln called ‘the last best hope of Earth.’”
During the ceremony, Fineman received an honorary degree, as did Rebecca Stevens Halstead and Francisco J. Núñez. History Prof. Bill Bowman received the Gettysburg College Award for Distinguished Teaching, and Robert H. Joseph Jr. ’69 received the Lavern H. Brenneman ’36 Award for Exemplary Volunteer Service to Gettysburg College.
Throughout the weekend, student achievements were celebrated at various events and ceremonies. Students were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest national honors organization that promotes liberal learning and recognizes academic excellence, and Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society. They were also recognized for earning various honors and prizes during Spring Honors Day.
Two students were recognized during a U.S. Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) commissioning ceremony on Saturday morning, and were commissioned as second lieutenants.
Check out photos from Commencement below or on Flickr.