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Beloit, WI— Hailing from as far away as India, Serbia and Taiwan, and as close as Chicago and Beloit, the 323 members of Beloit College’s class of 2012 received their degrees today in a sunny, outdoor ceremony. The 162nd commencement exercises took place on the lawn between the college’s iconic administration building, Middle College, and a half-dozen ancient Indian mounds.
President Scott Bierman welcomed graduates and families as the ceremony began. In his remarks, he told graduates they are gathered here today because they have earned the right to accept one of the most important and worthy symbols of accomplishments they will ever accept.
“The liberal arts college that sits on this beautiful and historic location at this moment in time is a college of enormous relevance at this moment in time because it is – particularly on this day – sending out to an increasingly complex and ever-changing world 323 so very talented people who are so very desperately needed,” Bierman said.
Commencement speaker Michael D. Young, the vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of California-Santa Barbara, followed Bierman by challenging members of the class to engage in the 21st-century issues of social identity.
“You have had this extraordinary privilege to live, work and study at this world-class college, at Beloit College, that has prepared you to become the leaders of the 21st century and to live a life of consequence and purpose,” he said. “You are the ones we have been waiting for.”
Seniors Ian Hedges from Charleston, W.Va., and Mashail Malik from Islamabad, Pakistan, delivered the class address where they reflected on the quirks that make Beloit “Beloit.”
In the end, they realized it is the so-called “rabble rousers” that truly make Beloit “Beloit.”
“Let’s never forget that,” Malik said. “Let’s never lose our love for pursuing something challenging, our willingness to ask the big questions, or the readiness with which we stand up for what we believe in.”
Student leaders, guests and employees honored
In addition to conferring bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees upon the class of 2012, the college used the occasion to honor Young and James W. Zwerg’62 with honorary degrees. Zwerg is best known for his role in the 1961 Freedom Rides, which tested federal laws prohibiting segregation in interstate travel by organizing bus rides into the American Deep South, where those laws had been ignored.
Also celebrated was Nancy A. McDowell, a longtime professor of anthropology, who was awarded emeriti status. McDowell was also the first woman to hold the position of vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college.
During the ceremony, Amani Edwards of Atlanta was awarded the college’s Blue Skies Award and Danica Slavish, from Beloit, was awarded the 2012 Martha Peterson Prize.
The Warren Miller Blue Skies Award, named for a Beloit alumnus who is famous for his many New Yorker magazine cartoons, pays tribute to a member of the senior class who helped “foster good cheer, a good-humored perspective, and saving grace in the conduct of our daily lives together on campus.”
Named after Beloit’s seventh president, the Martha Peterson Prize is awarded to a student who best exemplifies the college’s liberal arts traditions as a student and active contributor to the campus community.