As President Rob Huntington pointed out, Sunday’s Commencement was “just a bit more cozy” inside Seiberling Gymnasium, but the celebratory spirit was just as strong as Heidelberg welcomed 295 graduates into the alumni family.
“Even though we were disappointed to be back inside Seiberling Gym due to the adverse weather, I thought it was a wonderful ceremony with a very warm spirit inside. And dry!” President Rob Huntington said.
To the graduates, he said, “We consider it a privilege to nurture your intellectual, personal and professional development.” Each graduate received a white rose, symbolizing Heidelberg’s respect, friendship, love and hope for each of them.
The puzzle of life
Heidelberg welcomed Mary Welsh Schlueter, founder and CEO of the Cincinnati-based non-profit Partnership for Innovation in Education, as the keynote speaker. Illustrating her message with three life stories, Welsh used the metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle to frame her remarks and advice.
She recalled writing a memorable essay for her Fulbright application about jigsaw puzzles. “It doesn’t matter whether the puzzle is 500 or 5,000 pieces, the methodology is the same,” she said, noting that edge pieces are the first to be assembled, forming a framework for the entire puzzle.
“Our lives are like jigsaw puzzles,” she said. “The framing pieces become building blocks and connect to other pieces. When you arrived here, your significant building blocks were already in place. You increased the size and shape of them, and now, your jigsaw puzzles have energy and momentum. … Through them, you have adapted, interpreted and re-created your future.”
Welsh also recalled arriving in New Zealand for her Fulbright and learning soon thereafter that it had imploded. Through self-reliance, she adapted, got creative and refocused, turning the experience around, ultimately becoming the highest ranking non-elected American serving as New Zealand’s Parliamentarian Director of Research. She authored a best-selling book about New Zealand women entrepreneurs, all by the age of 24.
“I used the skill set I gained at Allegheny College (a liberal arts college) to bridge my American experience to accommodate a New Zealand point of view.”
Finally, she reflected on the case method of learning utilized at the Harvard Business School where students took on the role of decision making and learned to be real-world learners.
As a marketing professional, professor and parent, she summarized her messages: keep building your puzzle frame, be self-reliant and have confidence in your role as a problem solver and exercise your mind.
“Today is just one more very important puzzle piece in this ever-expanding experience that is uniquely your own.”
Heidelberg presented Welsh and baccalaureate speaker, the Rev. Dr. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, honorary doctor of humane letters degrees during the ceremony.
On Saturday, Schaller Blaufuss, team leader for the UCC’s Global Sharing of Resources and executive for Volunteer Ministries, delivered an inspirational sermon about relationships, life transitions and community during baccalaureate.
Community, she said, is an integral piece of the justice, love and compassion model that is often forgotten. “We make community wherever we are,” Schaller Blaufuss said. “It’s a microcosm of the ways we interact with each other.”
“The kinds of communities we place ourselves in matter.”
While some grads know their next address, others haven’t yet figured that out. Yet, that’s an important part of the transition before them. “To what will we be committing ourselves going forward?” she asked. “And what kind of communities will you form and what communities will form you?”
“It’s all about relationships. If one person’s passion gets matched with the world’s greatest need, good. But what if all of us together engage for the common good. Think of the possibilities!” Like Edward Lorenz’s “butterfly effect,” small changes and contributions can have major consequences.
“We are all that metaphorical butterfly,” a beautiful kaleidoscope of transformation. “Your education at Heidelberg has prepared you well to be butterflies,” she said.
By the numbers
In all, 57 graduate students and 238 undergrads received their degrees on Mother’s Day. Members of the graduating class hailed from 16 states and eight countries.
Before diplomas were presented, the students heard reflections and sage advice from Nick Benjamin, representing graduate students with his remarks, “The 500-Mile Journey,” and Emily Nolting, with her remarks, “Find Your Pulse.”
Words of thanks
Special thanks to the Heidelberg Symphonic Band and director Jon Waters, the Concert Choir and director Dr. Greg Ramsdell, and soloists Tyler Schultz and Kristina Kamm for their beautiful music throughout the ceremony.
As they say, it takes a village. President Huntington expressed special thanks to everyone involved in bringing the weekend together successfully.
See photos from commencement in the photo gallery on Flickr.