If the 234 Heidelberg students who earned their diplomas on Sunday think of their lives as a story, then so far, just the preface has been written. How they live going forward will determine the rest of the story.
That was the message Rear Adm. Boris Lushniak, acting surgeon general of the United States, who delivered an inspired and entertaining keynote address during Commencement.
“So now begins Chapter 1,” Lushniak told the graduates. “What will be the success of your life? I assure you it’s not money. The joy to life isn’t riches. The joy to life isn’t possessions. The joy to life is the ability to tell your story.”
Lushniak encouraged the graduates to ask themselves, “Where have I pushed myself?”
“This is non-fiction we’re dealing with,” he said. “You are the authors. You have the knowledge, so write it well.”
Wearing his Surgeon General’s cap, Lushniak added that the story starts with individuals who look for ways to better themselves and better their health. In his professional role, he is responsible for articulating the best available scientific information to the public regarding ways to improve personal health and the health of the nation.
“The bottom line is this: Be great doing what you do. Success to life is a good story,” he said. “The next chapter is your connectivity to the world.”
Graduating senior Lauren Stainbrook, who received her bachelor of science degree in biology, addressed her classmates on the topic “Generation HU.” Stainbrook said her classmates have dispelled the characteristics of her Generation Y, which has been stereotyped as lazy, entitled, narcissistic and overconfident.
“We didn’t realize (when we were choosing a college) that we were actually choosing a community,” she said. “In choosing Heidelberg, we chose an incredibly supportive network.” The Class of 2014 found innumerable ways to give back in Tiffin and as far away as China.
Her classmates, Stainbrook said, learned to work together, not just as a team but scholastically.
“It’s impossible to think of ourselves as a single entity. … The definition of Generation Y does not apply to us,” she said, adding that she will remember the kindness, care, philanthropy and sense of otherness and community demonstratedby her classmates.
In all, a total of 14 states and three countries are represented in the Class of 2014. Heidelberg presented Lushniak and baccalaureate speaker Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes, president of United Theological Seminary of The Twin Cities, with honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees.
On Saturday, 65 graduate students received master’s degrees in education, counseling, business administration and music.
Nancy Ditmer, professor of music and chair of the Music Department at The College of Wooster, delivered the keynote address to the graduates, “Two Ears, Two Thumbs, One Mouth.” Her goal was not to impart information, but to bring inspiration, reflection and emotion to the ceremony. As she prepared for her first-ever commencement speech, Ditmer returned to the central theme: What makes us human?
The primary answer to that question is how humans communicate with one another. “I’m old fashioned. I like to look people in the eye when I’m talking to them,” she said. But she conceded that as a college professor in a world of social media, she has had to enter the digital age.
Ditmer offered three pieces of advice to make communication meaningful and real:
• It’s not by accident that we have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk.
• It’s OK to use your thumbs -- for texting.
• Embrace the power of the non-verbal. Look up from your devices and into each other’s eyes.
Students also heard from 1980 Heidelberg grad Lynn Huenemann, who received her master’s degree in music after more than 30 years as an elementary music teacher at Seneca East Local Schools. In her message, titled “Wright … rite … right … write!” She reflected on the varied meanings of these homophones and how they apply to lives, careers and humanness.