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Wittenberg Celebrates Class of 2012 With 167th Commencement Exercises

May 12, 2012  
 Filed in Campus Headlines

Jennifer Vanica '76

Springfield, Ohio — Encouraged to “make the world a better place to live,” members of Wittenberg University’s Class of 2012 celebrated their collegiate experience in front of a standing-room-only crowd on a picture-perfect afternoon in idyllic Commencement Hollow.

University President Mark H. Erickson led a celebration of the 410 members of the Class of 2012, paying tribute to a graduating class that included his own son, David. He also welcomed three distinguished guests in attendance, the 2012 Commencement speaker and leader in community change Jennifer Vanica, class of 1976, philanthropist Virginia Ellis Franta, class of 1936, and retired publshing industry leader Peggy Fox, class of 1967. Vanica and Fox both received an honorary doctor of humane letters, while Franta received the university’s highest non-academic award, the Wittenberg Medal of Honor.

Wittenberg’s Class of 2012 included 19 “non-traditional” students from Wittenberg’s School of Community Education, undergraduate students from 30 different states and seven countries outside of the United States. Undergraduate degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Music Education and Bachelor of Science were awarded, in addition to five Master of Arts in Education degrees. A total of 30 different majors, spanning the alphabet from accounting to theatre and dance, were awarded.

Jenna Montali, Class President

Latin honors were distributed to 147 of the graduates in recognition of their exceptional academic pursuits. Fifty of them were designated cum laude (3.5-3.69 grade point average), 34 magna cum laude (3.7-3.79) and 63 summa cum laude (3.8-4.0).

Vanica, former president and CEO of the Jacobs Family Foundation and Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, has committed her life to building partnerships that advance innovative solutions for comprehensive, sustainable community change. Her experiences as a Wittenberg student played a significant role in her life decisions, and she implored the new graduates to follow their hearts as she did.

After noting that famed baseball player Babe Ruth struck out an astonishing 1,330 times while setting a longstanding home-run record during his major league career, Vanica said, “You’ve got to swing for the fences, but when you do that, you’re going to strike out sometimes. But you have to take those chances.”

She applied that advice during her professional career as she worked to rehabilitate blighted areas of San Diego, Calif. She told the graduates to strive for success without fear because “failure is not a destination, it is a moment in time.”

Vanica praised the liberal arts education she received at Wittenberg, noting that the skills acquired will allow the graduates to “step into a whole new place” as she once did. She went from being an English major afforded the opportunity to study at Wittenberg in large part thanks to a generous gift from a high school teacher to a community change agent in one of the poorest neighborhoods in California. Her education allowed her to “work across disciplines.”

Ethan Barr, class of 2012.

Prior to Vanica’s address, Senior Class President Jenna Montali shared memories of the class’ four years on campus as she discussed how the traditions at Wittenberg work into all facets of the college experience. Quoting classmate Rachel Lee, who was part of a special Class of 2012 video posted on the university website, Montali said, “there is no place like home, and Wittenberg is home.”

“We’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime,” Montali said. “Now we are a part of that tradition, connected by one common thread.”

Presiding over his seventh and final Commencement Exercises, Erickson encouraged the graduates to remember the university’s motto, ‘Having light we pass it on to others,’ and to “take time take today to ponder it and what it means in your life. Having light is all about finding your passion, your calling. I encourage you as I have throughout the last four years to find what you love and throw yourself into it. If you do that, work is not work. Do what you love, and the rest will follow.”

Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photos By: Erin Pence

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