Ohio State celebrates autumn 2021 commencement
Speaker Frederic Bertley calls on graduates to use their “Block O” toolkit
More than 3,530 new graduates of The Ohio State University received their diplomas at an afternoon ceremony Sunday at the Schottenstein Center.
The graduates and their families received messages of cautious optimism as they prepare to enter a new phase in their lives in a time of great challenges and change.
Presiding over the ceremony, President Kristina M. Johnson cautioned the new graduates about placing too much pressure on themselves as they begin their careers.
“If you are fortunate, your lives will be long, and there will be many opportunities to rethink, to try a new path, to switch from a lower to a higher gear, and back again. Life isn’t a race,” she said. “The changes you experience on your journey and the new perspectives those changes give you will make you wiser – and hopefully, more compassionate, too.”
In his commencement address, scientist and scholar Frederic Bertley, president and CEO of COSI (the Center of Science and Industry), explained to graduates that they would be leaving Ohio State armed with a “Block O” toolkit.
“To assist you on your journey, this venerable university has provided you a toolkit unlike any other, filled with all of the things that you will need to leverage, lean on, and lead throughout your career – wherever it may take you,” he said. “In that toolkit you have essentials such as understanding the importance of civility, discourse, empathy and caring. … Traits like discipline, kindness, conviction and gratitude are also included. And the importance of public service and social justice lubricate the inside of this toolkit like a connective tissue making sure you stay true to your north star.”
Bertley said the toolkit also includes perseverance, grit and the ability to apply scientific rigor and thought to the challenges graduates face – challenges that include racial injustice, pressure on democratic institutions and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“So, while we have made tremendous gains in the past century, we still have much work to do. The good news is, however, that Block O tattooed on your toolkit has readied you,” he said. “[Ohio State] has forged an unbending steel in you to fight for what is right, to problem solve what is difficult and ultimately make a positive contribution to the world.”
Geoffrey Parker, Distinguished University Professor and Andreas Dorpalen Professor of European History, was presented with the Joseph Sullivant Medal, awarded every five years as a memorial to Sullivant, who, as a member of the first Board of Trustees, contributed to setting a vision for the character and direction of the university.
Environmental attorney Robert Bilott, known for leading lawsuits against companies accused of dumping of hazardous chemicals, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science. Kathy Sullivan, NASA astronaut and former president of COSI, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Affairs.
Thomas Hall received the Distinguished Service Award. Hall served three terms as a member of the Ohio State University at Newark Advisory Board.