5/12/14 ASHLAND, Ohio - The greatest reward for the class of 2014 is not a piece of paper, but rather an opportunity for graduates to go out into the world and do whatever they desire to do, commencement speaker William G. Batchelder told graduates at Ashland University's commencement ceremony Saturday.
The speaker reminded students that their degree is not something that is handed to them or something that happened to them by accident but is something that has come to them as a result of hard work and sacrifice.
Batchelder, who has been Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives since 2011, has represented the 69th District since 2007 and previously served as a state representative from 1969 to 1998. The Medina resident is the second-longest serving representative in the Ohio House.
The speaker told graduates that this year marks the commencement of a new phase of his own life just as it marks a milestone for the graduates.
"Today is special to me because we have term limits in Ohio, and after a mere 38 years, they are making me go home," Batchelder said.
He then went on to pass the torch to a generation of young people whom he hopes will carry on his passion for helping the country continue to be great.
Batchelder spoke in praise of the nation's founding fathers and said though he believes this country is the greatest on earth, the states need to amend the constitution to take back power from the federal government.
"This nation, your nation, the nation you will do so much for in the future, requires alterations in its structure," he said. "You will have the opportunity to be the young people who come into the challenges we face and address them."
The speaker praised Ashland University for its growth and expansion in tough economic times and for the education it provides students.
"Based upon what I know about this college and what I know about the method of study here, you will be more than capable," Batchelder said.
Batchelder said it was "an honor and a privilege" to work with Ashland University President Fred Finks and 70th District state Rep. Dave Hall to help secure funding for AU's nursing school in Mansfield as part of the State Capital Bill.
Finks presented Batchelder with an honorary doctor of laws degree. He also spoke briefly about the "cloud of witnesses" surrounding the graduates, including the lifelong friends they made at AU and the people who supported them through their education such as family, friends, faculty and mentors.
Finks led graduates and attendees in a moment of silence to remember Andrew Keim, the junior who died after a car accident earlier this month, and the three other students injured in the accident.
Student Senate President Victorialyn Keay read a passage from the Bible that promises those who place hope in the Lord will "soar on wings like eagles."
Senior Class President Hannah Diemer used a series of quotes to remind students about their growth throughout their undergraduate careers and announced the senior class gift of an oak tree between Amstutz Hall and Broad Street.
Just as the tree will be present with the university for years to come, she said, the university will be present with students in the future.
Valedictorians were political science and history major Joseph Griffith II of Medina and Spanish and French major Stefanie Stoops of Crestline. Megan France, a middle grades education major from Champion, was named salutatorian.
The presentation of degrees was handled by Provost Frank Pettigrew.
A total of 837 degrees, including 366 graduate and 471 undergraduate, were presented. Degrees conferred included 10 doctor of education, 210 master of education, 108 master of business administration, three master of American history and government, 23 master of arts, 12 master of fine arts in creative writing, 77 Bachelor of Arts, four Bachelor of Music, 103 Bachelor of Science, 77 Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, 126 Bachelor of Science in Education, 64 Bachelor of Science in Nursing, 12 Bachelor of Science in social work, five Bachelor of Fine Arts and three Associate of Arts degrees.
Reprinted with approval from Courtney Day/Ashland Times-Gazette; photo courtesy of Ashland Times-Gazette.