AU Commencement

Saturday marked the first commencement ceremony without masks since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic at Ashland University.

ASHLAND -- While graduation celebrations at Ashland University have taken place biannually for several decades, there was a sense of newness to the 2022 Spring Commencement edition when 834 total degrees were awarded Saturday morning.

For one, it was held inside the Niss Athletic Center for the first time due to the wet weather that hovered over northern Ohio Friday and early Saturday morning. The spacious facility, which officially opened in January, is already paying dividends, as there was plenty of room for the thousands of family and friends who cheered on their loved ones walking across the stage.

Secondly, it was the first commencement since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in which masks and social distancing weren’t required. The theme of overcoming challenges was prevalent in several speeches, much to the dismay of valedictorian Madeline Worcester who joked she’s going to request Merriman-Webster remove the word “unprecedented” from the dictionary because of its overuse.

Third, it is believed to be the first time AU featured more than one Commencement speaker. Bob and Jan Archer, two of the institution’s most enthusiastic supporters, were given the honor, and later, they were each presented with an honorary degree (Doctor of Humane Letters) by AU President Carlos Campo. It marked the first time AU conferred such a degree in 11 years.

Jan Archer took the opportunity to encourage the graduates to reflect on the ending of their AU journey, while Bob Archer spoke to their new beginning. Jan Archer appealed to the Class of 2022 to “remember one unique experience … from this journey as you commence to the next,” citing several possible examples close to her own heart – a musical ensemble, an event put on by Ashland Center for Nonviolence, a prominent visitor to campus through the Ashbrook Center or an athletics championship.

She also noted the qualities of eagles, the school’s official mascot, are often reflected in Ashland graduates. Eagles possess “great vision” and “signify freedom, speed, strength, loyalty, longevity and devotion to their mates,” she said and then wished everyone luck as they “soar like eagles.”

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Before Bob Archer turned the graduates’ attention to what lies ahead, he lauded them with praise. He acknowledged Generation Z, of which the Class of 2022 belongs, has already made the world a better place by doing “more than any generation before (it) to embrace equality, tolerance, social justice, ethics, empathy … inclusivity and diversity.”

The highly-successful businessman then offered several words of wisdom to take to the professional world. No matter what field one is entering, he emphasized “to be selective on your career path … understand the importance of finding the right workplace for you and the right boss.” His sage advice also included to “work hard, work smart with passion, discipline, trust and integrity.”

After the Archer’s speeches and conferment of their degrees, 436 undergraduates received their bachelor’s degrees, 185 graduates their respective advanced degrees and another 213 their associate degrees.

Worcester, an English major, followed with a few thoughts for her fellow classmates. As they move past the “best/hardest years of our entire lives … and a constant … fluctuation of norms,” she came to the conclusion that it would be unfair to offer one piece of advice as they mostly head in different directions. Instead, simply live in this moment, she remarked, as “the past and future make up parts of what we are, but there is only one guarantee—one shared facet of our lives—and that is now.”

Tomorrow, a new world beckons for 834 impressive young men and women who have joined the Ashland University alumni family of 50,000.

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