The University of Cincinnati celebrated its 189th Commencement on June 14 during two ceremonies in Fifth Third Arena at Shoemaker Center.
Spring marked the largest number of students – 4,555 of them – to reach graduation status in 20 years. In addition to the crowd of graduates, crowds of proud families and friends packed Fifth Third Arena for both ceremonies.
“Throughout the year our university has much to celebrate, and this year offered us many reasons to cheer,” said UC President Nancy L. Zimpher, citing the $420 million PACE in-kind contribution, the largest in UC’s history; the student-built solar house that was exhibited in Washington, D.C.; and a spectacular football season. “But, today tops all of that, with our UC Class of 2008, gathered here before us,” Zimpher said.
At both ceremonies, President Zimpher pointed out three empty chairs draped with caps and gowns, in tribute to three people with ties to UC who had died in the line of service. Staff Sergeant Keith Matthew “Matt” Maupin was a UC student when his Army Reserve unit was called up for service in Iraq. Fire Captain Robin Broxterman was completing her bachelor’s degree in fire science (the degree was awarded posthumously), and fellow firefighter Brian Schira was a graduate of the criminal justice program in the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services. Between ceremonies, an honorary bachelor’s for outstanding community service was presented to each of their families at a private reception. At the ceremonies, President Zimpher called for a moment of silence to remember those fallen heroes as well as Sycamore graduate and soldier Brandon Haunert, who had briefly attended UC.
Presidential Leadership Medal recipient Jerry Tsai presented the university oration for the afternoon ceremony, saying there was much to celebrate. “It’s because of the help of many others that we are on the verge of walking across this stage and receiving a diploma.” Tsai said family members, faculty, mentors and friends all helped graduates get to their special day. He added that with their education, graduates now had a newfound power and also had a responsibility to give back and make the world a better place. “We will always make sure that our generation will learn from our past, aspire for our future, but more than anything else, will live for today,” Tsai said.
Hamner, an author and creator of the long-running television series, “The Waltons,” said that his work is inspired by the family and neighbors he grew up with in the mountains of Virginia during the Great Depression. “They were decent, God-fearing, patriotic people. Like most Appalachian folk, they were frugal, proud and self-reliant. To write about such people it was inevitable that our stories deal with love and honor, pity and pride, compassion and sacrifice. And so much of our writing became a celebration of those traditional American values,” Hamner said.
“Some would have us believe that those values no longer have meaning, that they are quaint, outmoded relics of an older time. I believe they are more alive and well than our films and television and newspapers would have us believe. We’d be foolish to deny that stories of drugs, deception, scandal and crime capture the headlines, but that is not the America I know, nor is it the country I believe most of us know and honor. I believe there is more compassion than crime in our country, that there is more hope than heroin, more virtue than violence and more good than evil,” said Hamner.
Hamner told the graduates that they were citizens of the “greatest county in the world, with all of the rights and protections and opportunities that this country can afford.
Martina Jones, vice president of the Senior Class, remarked that the Class of 2008 had raised more than $11,000 toward the senior class gift to the university. The Senior Class Officers are proposing a Bearcat statue for campus in conjunction with help from Sigma Sigma.
UC’s Doctoral Hooding and Master’s Recognition Ceremony was held June 13 at Fifth Third Arena.