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It’s “Turtles All the Way Down” at Beloit College’s 2014 Commencement

Sunday, May 18, 2014

278 graduates receive degrees in ceremony featuring country music performance, poet Kevin Young

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at or 608-363-2849

Beloit, Wis.“Turtles all the way down” has long been a theme on campus, where turtles are commemorated on ancient Indian mounds and are known as the college’s unofficial mascot. Today, at Beloit College’s 164th Commencement ceremony where 278 graduates received their diplomas, that phrase came to life with a special, surprise guest appearance from up-and-coming country singer Sturgill Simpson.

One of Simpson and his band’s latest songs happens to be called “Turtles All the Way Down,” which they performed on May 11’s Prairie Home Companion. Associate Professor of Political Science Pablo Toral heard the song and alerted President Scott Bierman, who in turn contacted Simpson’s management team to ask the band to stop by and perform the song during Commencement.

Sturgill Simpson 

The band had been performing in Chicago, Milwaukee and Appleton, Wis., in recent days and was on its way home to Nashville, Tenn., with Beloit conveniently located along the route.

“(President Bierman’s) letter was just so eloquent. We couldn’t say no,” Simpson said.

After Bierman gave graduates and guests a moment to download the song, he introduced Commencement speaker Kevin Young to give his address in which he spoke on the power of creating.

Young, an award-winning poet who visited Beloit last year as the 2012-13 Lois and Willard Mackey Chair in Creative Writing, urged graduates to be true to themselves and their experiences.

Kevin Young Commencement 

“No matter what you do, stop and think, look under your boot soles, your Uggs or Sorels, see and maybe even say what you find there, share yourself and not just your selfie,” Young said. “Help us know where and who you are—not because a phone’s tracking system makes it easy, or the ‘interwebs’ tells you to, but because you decide to shape the self into something shared but all your own.”

Young, who serves as Emory University’s Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing and English, also encouraged graduates to never give up on discovery and learning because you never know when a spark, or invigorating flame, may speak to you and only you.

“We must remain open not just to what we wish to learn, but to what we find along the way,” he continued. “In this Information Age it’s hard to remember that not all our searches need to be exact. Sometimes you find more by browsing, by seeing the thing you weren’t exactly looking for.”

Commencement crowd shot 

More key moments from Beloit’s 2014 Commencement:

  • The graduates with the highest scholastic standings among the bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degree recipients are Nicholas Mischler of Rockton, Ill., and Hannah Tepsa of Chassell, Mich., respectively.
  • Athiththan Selvendran’14 of Jamaica, N.Y., received the Warren Miller Blue Skies Award, named for a Beloit alumnus who is famous for his many New Yorker magazine cartoons and 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.”
  • Duncan Gillis’14 of Salt Lake City, Utah, won the Martha Peterson Prize, named after Beloit College's seventh president and awarded to a student who best exemplifies the college's liberal arts traditions as a student and active contributor to the campus community.
  • Sophia Maloney’14 of Saint Paul, Minn., gave the class address titled “Graduation Remix.” She advised fellow graduates to “unravel, try, trust, savor, make a fool of yourself, listen, grow, embrace and challenge.”
  • Young was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree by Chris Fink, associate professor of English and chair of the department.
  • Emeriti citations were conferred to six retiring faculty and staff members. They are: Vice President for Enrollment Services Nancy Benedict; Biology Professor Marion Field Fass; English Professor and Mindset List co-creator Tom McBride; Biochemistry Professor Alfred (Roc) Ordman; Music Professor Renato Premezzi; and Secretary of the College Connie Truesdale. For more information on each, click here.

Visit now and in the coming days to view photographs, factoids and more. Video of today’s ceremony is now available at