Buckeye bridge builder wants students to graduate with a desire for truth

Commencement speaker Tim Gerber will reflect on lessons of a life in education

By: Chris Booker

Published on December 16, 2016

Timothy Gerber will address autumn commencement

More than 3,000 students will proceed into the Schottenstein Center Sunday for the autumn commencement at The Ohio State University. Most will be ready to leave college behind and begin a new phase of their lives. Commencement speaker Timothy Gerber wants them to be well armed for the new world.

“One of the themes of my talk is the truth matters,” Gerber said. “That’s what we in the academy are all about. We try to help our students distinguish fact from fiction, try to ascertain good data and good evidence and make good decisions based on that.”

Gerber, a professor of music, says he was honored to be asked to address the graduates. He hopes to speak less about himself, and more about what he has learned in a life of education.

“I hope more than anything else that our graduates are leaving here with a highly cultivated discipline of mind,” he said.

Gerber says critical thinking and problem solving are keys to surviving in a rapidly changing world.

Gerber also plans to pull from his extensive knowledge of music. He is considering quoting Mick Jagger, and the lyrics of Sting are also likely to make their way into his speech.

“Music has great power. It has power to shape our identity. We all grew up with certain music, certain tunes that shape who we are,” Gerber said.

Gerber joined Ohio State’s faculty in 1984. He has taught all levels of undergraduate and graduate music education courses.

“He has a love for the university and a love for the job that is very sincere,” said Ted McDaniel, professor emeritus, Department of African American & African Studies. McDaniel has known Gerber since he started at Ohio State.

He continues to play a leadership role for the university as well. Gerber was elected in 2009-10 as chair of the Ohio State Faculty Council. He is currently serving in his second term as secretary of the University Senate, a position he has held since 2011.

“I don’t think Tim has made an off-hand comment in his life,” said Blaine Lilly, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “Everything is well thought out and well put together.”

Lilly says Gerber will do a great job with his commencement address. He’s known Gerber for about five years as member of the University Senate.

“I think Tim will try to tell them this is the best preparation we can give you. You’re graduating from a great university, a world-class university,” Lilly said.

Friends of Gerber say he is a gifted speaker and a brilliant teacher. Students selected him to receive the School of Music’s Distinguished Teaching Award, and in 2013 he was named the Distinguished Scholar in the School of Music.

His peers say Gerber works to make connections at all levels across campus.

“I’ve come to admire and respect all he’s been able to accomplish,” said Bennet Givens, associate professor in the Department of Psychology. Givens also serves with Gerber in the senate.

“He ties together faculty, students, staff and administrators in a way no one else does,” Givens said.

Gerber wants the students who will cross the stage on Sunday to make connections of their own when they leave Ohio State.

“I hope these students can be what I call ‘Buckeye bridge builders,’” Gerber said. “I want them to build bridges within communities and between people and between organizations. They come here as young, un-informed teenagers and leave here as people who can build bridges and make connections.”


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Chris Booker
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