​Record-breaking graduating class issued a challenge to make a difference

Speakers encourage students to use their education to improve the world

By: Chris Booker

Published on May 07, 2018

The largest graduating class in The Ohio State University history was tasked with the goal of using their knowledge not only for themselves, but to make the world a better place.

Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, delivered the commencement address in Ohio Stadium on Sunday. Thousands of friends and family gathered in the warm spring weather to honor the awarding of a record 11,907 degrees.

Early in her career, Desmond-Hellmann was a physician caring for patients in Uganda afflicted by cancer. It was a job that was both emotionally and physically taxing and she admitted it changed her views on life.

“I realized for the first time that being smart doesn’t matter unless you use your intelligence for a greater purpose,” she said. “I started thinking about how to serve humanity, how to make a contribution to humanity.”

Desmond-Hellmann said the graduates were well prepared to make an important contribution because of their Ohio State education.

“You have had the benefit of attending one of the best universities in our country. There is no other major research university in America that is opening access and achieving success for low-income students and first-generation students as much as this one,” she said. “Ohio State is making your stories ones of possibility, ones filled with opportunity. The challenge for you now is to make the most of it.”

President Michael V. Drake, who presided over the ceremony, charged the class to remember the central mission of Ohio State as they begin the next step in their lives.

“We trust you will exemplify the motto of the university, Education for Citizenship, by using your education and passion to make a difference,” he said. “Before you make a big decision, consult your inner compass, and then do what you know is right. Good decisions lead to good places.”

Elizabeth Beattey, a health sciences graduate, agreed with that sentiment. One of two student speakers at commencement, Beattey started her Ohio State education at the Newark Campus.

“Smaller campuses make a huge impact on students’ real lives, students who may not feel they have the ability to go to college,” she said.

Beattey said she was able to serve as the president of the student government on the regional campus and help encourage and inspire younger students who attended the Newark campus. Even when she attended the Columbus campus, she continued taking classes in Newark and working as a student assistant.

“I’m often asked why I have stayed involved at Newark when Columbus has so many opportunities. My only answer to that is I can’t forget about the place where everything began,” she said.

Shweta Ambwani, a data analytics major, used the lyrics from Carmen Ohio to encourage her peers to be thankful for their experience at Ohio State and to continue to support each other as new Buckeye alumni.

“We’ve been given the tools to succeed here and beyond,” she said. “Whatever your next step in life is, be thankful for the college education you’ve so worked hard for. Be thankful for your families, professors, mentors and friends who have supported you through your journey here. Ohio State has given us joy which death alone can still.”


The university awarded 763 doctoral degrees, 2,722 masters’ degrees and 6,983 bachelor’s degrees as part of this historic class. About 1,700 of the degree recipients were the first in their family to attend college.

The university also awarded the honorary Doctor of Science degree to Desmond-Hellmann. Distinguished Service Awards were presented to Bobby Moser, who served as dean and vice president of agricultural administration for 20 years; David Schuller, who attended medical school at Ohio State and rose to become first director of The James and deputy director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center; and Iris Wolstein, an strong advocate for the university with a passion for making Ohio State a leader in education and athletics.

Before the new graduates marched through the stadium to receive the degrees they earned, Drake delivered one request.

“To all of our graduates, my message is, simply: Dream Big. The world needs your time and talents. The world, and the next generation, need your attention.”

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