The Reverend JoAnne Terrell gave the Commencement address and received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Beloit. An associate professor of theology, ethics, and arts at Chicago Theological Seminary, Terrell urged students to embrace change on a grand scale: what she called transfiguration—
“Not merely a change in outward form or appearance, but also an exalting, glorifying, or spiritual change.”
Toward the beginning of the ceremony, President Scott Bierman unexpectedly invited graduate Reid Libby of Carmel, Ind., to join him on stage. A singer/songwriter who majored in performance, Libby wrote an original song dedicated to Beloit theatre professor John Kaufmann. He exuberantly serenaded his mentor by performing a song called “John Kaufmann” on guitar while Kaufmann himself stood by. “He would take our dumb mistakes and turn them into something great,” he sang in one of the refrains.
Professor of Biology and Geology Carol Mankiewicz was awarded emerita status at the 2016 ceremony. Mankiewicz was lauded for having modeled interdisciplinary science to students over the course of a 27-year teaching career, n which she emphasized field work with countless students in locations from Turtle Creek in Beloit to the Galapagos Islands.
Surprise awards went to two graduates: Nadir Carlson, of Beloit, Wis., received the Warren Miller Blue Skies Award for bringing good cheer and good humor to everyday life on campus. Max Brumberg-Kraus of Providence, R.I., received the Martha Peterson Prize for exemplifying the liberal arts tradition as a student and an active contributor to the campus community.
Student speaker Hayley Barnett, New York, N.Y., also examined the topic of change in her comments to her classmates. “Everything is changing for us, especially right now,” she said. “We are leaving the place we’ve called home for four years, the place that has housed so many triumphs, challenges, and yes, definitely some failures. That’s OK. We’re taking our Beloit friendships long distance, pursuing new friendships, new challenges, new triumphs, new failures. Maybe we’re leaving some things behind. That’s OK, too.”
As the ceremony came to a close, the round of applause that graduates traditionally offer to faculty and staff gave way to an enthusiastic standing ovation.