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Ohio State commencement offers message of unity and shared service

A call for unity and national service was the message for a record crowd at The Ohio State University’s spring commencement on Sunday.

The university awarded a record 12,213 degrees and certificates to the largest graduating class in university history. The ceremony at Ohio Stadium included a graduating class size that was the largest for the fifth consecutive year.

President Michael V. Drake presided over the ceremony. Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS for CNN and columnist for The Washington Post, delivered the commencement address.

Zakaria warned of the growing social and political divide in the country. He compared it to sectarian feuds in Europe or the Middle East.

He suggested a mandatory year of national service could help bring the nation together. Zakaria said service could be in public schools, impoverished communities or the military.

Ultimately, Zakaria said a new policy could go only so far and he asked the new graduates to be better to one another.

“Public policy is really only one aspect of how we can come together. We all need to get out of our echo chambers and talk to each other and respect one another,” he said. “We must all listen and empathize more, and listening means listening to those with whom you fundamentally disagree. We must judge and condemn less: online, in print and in person.”

Two students also addressed the crowd: Nick Frankowski, a new graduate with a degree in economics; and Melissa Martinez-Cuen, an early childhood education graduate.

Martinez-Cuen said she feels compelled to serve because of the family, faculty and friends who helped motivate her to succeed.

“I also learned that service goes a long way and involvement teaches us about the community, and ourselves,” she said. “Because I’m a Buckeye I plan to give back and help guide others just as I was helped through my college experience, starting with the young minds I will have in my future classroom.”

Frankowski spoke of the challenges facing the new graduates.

“Science and technology present us with exponentially more opportunities than ever before – and exponentially more problems,” he said. “We are confronted with unparalleled challenges, and countless ways to overcome them. These are the tasks which we, as Buckeyes, must lead on. These are things which we are prepared to lead on. By virtue of our Ohio State education and our membership in the Buckeye family, we are prepared to enter the world at precisely the time the world most needs us.”

In addition to the degrees and certificates, the university awarded Zakaria the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Distinguished Service Awards were presented to George W. Acock, founder and president of Acock Associates Architects and credited with the renovations of Pomerene Hall, Thompson Library and Sullivant Hall; Linda Kass, former university trustee, author and owner of Gramercy Books in Bexley; and William T. “Ted” McDaniel Jr., professor emeritus of music and African American and African Studies and specialist in jazz history, jazz performance and African American music.

Drake helped conclude the ceremony by encouraging the class of 2019 to change the world for the better.

“Graduates, you have worked so hard to get to where you are. Now you must use what you’ve learned for the greater good,” Drake said. “Let yourself be supported by the quality of the work and effort you’ve put in thus far. Let that be your foundation – and then build upon that foundation a life of which you can be proud.”

Current and former Buckeye student-athletes graduate

More than 160 current and former Ohio State student-athletes received their degrees at spring commencement.

Complete list of Spring 2019 Student-Athlete Graduates

Among the student-athlete graduates are national and conference champions, All-Americans, academic standouts and Big Ten Medal of Honor winners and finalists.

Graduates include:

  • 2019 Big Ten Medal of Honor winners Mason Jobst and Karrington Winters. The award is given to the top male and female senior student-athlete based on athletics and academics on each Big Ten campus. Jobst is the second two-time All-American in Ohio State men’s hockey history and a three-time All-Big Ten selection, and was part of three NCAA Tournament teams. Winters, part of the women’s track and field team, is a three-time First Team All-American and two-time Second Team All-American and owns three Ohio State records.
  • Greg Oden returned to Ohio State to pursue his undergraduate degree after leading the men’s basketball Buckeyes to the Final Four during his freshman season in 2007. He has spent the last few years assisting with the Ohio State men’s basketball program as a student assistant coach.
  • Lilli Piper and Emily Clark, seniors on the softball team, were selected in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, of the National Pro Fastpitch College Draft April 15. Piper is a two-time All-American and First Team All-Big Ten selection, while Clark earned All-Big Ten recognition twice.

The 169 spring graduates join 40 current and former student-athletes who earned their Ohio State degree at winter commencement. At the annual Scholar-Athlete Dinner in April, 674 Buckeyes were recognized. There have been 212 Ohio State student-athletes named to the Academic All-Big Ten Team so far this year, with spring and at-large sports still to come.