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UC commencement one for the record books

The University of Cincinnati is expected to confer degrees to a record number of graduates at its annual spring celebration

Spring Commencement will mark the biggest graduating class in the history of the University of Cincinnati.

The university has set graduation records in three of the last four years. The new record is unlikely to last long as the university welcomed its largest incoming freshman class in 2017 only to break that record again last year.

UC will recognize 6,653 students for the spring 2019 Commencement, according to preliminary numbers from UC’s Office of Institutional Research. This tops last year’s 6,496 students, which itself was a record. The ceremonies will take place over three days at Fifth Third Arena starting Thursday at 2 p.m.

Among the graduates: 286 are receiving veterans benefits, 187 are from Cincinnati Public School  and 1,159 who are the first in their family ever to wear a college cap and gown.

The spring class hails from 75 countries, 49 states and the District of Columbia. About 71 percent of the graduates are Ohioans. And they come from 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

This week’s youngest graduate, earning an associate degree, is just 18. The oldest graduate, earning a master’s degree, is 75. The average age of the graduating class is 25. Another 39 students share their birthday over commencement. Happy Birthday!

Commencement details

Festivities begin 2 p.m. Thursday, May 2, with the master’s degree ceremony and doctoral hooding. UC will honor 1,322 graduates.

On Friday and Saturday, more than 3,800 undergraduate students will be honored on stage for their accomplishments across 13 of UC’s colleges. The UC College of Law graduation is scheduled for May 11.

Undergraduate Commencement begins at 9 a.m. Friday for the College-Conservatory of Music, the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing and the College of Allied Health Sciences.

Commencement continues 2 p.m. Friday for the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences and the Carl H. Lindner College of Business.

At 9 a.m. Saturday, Commencement continues for the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services; the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning; UC Blue Ash College and UC Clermont.

Doors to Fifth Third Arena open an hour before each ceremony.

Honorary degrees

Portrait of Doloris Learmonth

Doloris Learmonth

UC will award honorary degrees to three deserving recipients.

Doloris Learmonth is a graduate of the UC College of Law. She also earned a master’s degree from UC.

Learmonth served as managing partner of Peck Shaffer & Williams from 2001-08 and served as president of the Cincinnati Bar Association from 1991-92.

She is a trustee of the University of Cincinnati Foundation. She also serves on the Board of Visitors for UC’s College of Law and is co-chairwoman of the college’s capital campaign.

Learmonth served on the executive committee of the Hamilton County Democratic Party. She was named a YWCA Career Woman of Achievement in 1988 and was bestowed UC’s Nicholas Longworth III Alumni Achievement Award in 1991 and its Distinguished Alumna Award in 2001.

UC Foundation President Peter Landgren will introduce Learmonth, who will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters. UC Board of Trustees member Tom Mischell will perform the hooding.

Portrait of Rob Richardson Jr.

Rob Richardson Jr.

Rob Richardson Jr. is a UC graduate who served as chairman of UC’s Board of Trustees and ran for Ohio state treasurer in 2018.

He earned degrees from UC’s College of Law and UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Richardson is a former UC student body president who started the region’s first college campus chapter of the NAACP.

After graduation he worked as a labor attorney and ran a congressional campaign for Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley.

UC College of Law Dean Verna Williams will introduce Richardson, who will receive an honorary doctor of laws. UC Board of Trustees member Phil Collins will perform the hooding.

Portrait shot of Thomas Cassady

Thomas Cassady

Thomas Cassady, a UC graduate with a degree in history who served as chairman of the UC Board of Trustees between 2010 and 2019.

He is president and CEO of Cincinnati’s USI Midwest,  a national insurance brokerage firm. Previously, he served as founder, president and CEO of Queen City Insurance Agency.

UC Executive Vice President Ryan Hays will introduce Cassady, who will receive an honorary doctor of letters.

UC Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Ron Brown will perform the hooding.

Presidential Leadership Awards

While each graduate has a story of success to share, UC President Neville Pinto reserves special attention for those who exemplify the university’s ideals of scholarship, leadership, character and service as outlined in UC’s strategic direction, Next Lives Here.

Pinto honored eight graduates this year with a Presidential Leadership Medal for their accomplishments and contributions to society. 

They include: Rahul Sandella, a medical sciences major in UC’s College of Medicine; Rickey Terrell, a chemical engineering student in UC’s Honors program; Kendall Cappel, a Marvin P. Kolodzik Business Scholar; Mariam Elgafy, who will graduate from UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services; Andrew “Scottie” Emmert in the UC College of Medicine and Laura Stegner, who will graduate from UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. Each received the 2019 Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence.

Sandella first came to UC for his high school science fair and felt right at home. He was accepted into a UC pre-med program for high ability, intellectually curious students, which provided mentorship from UC’s esteemed faculty. As a result, Sandell was able to work on research projects in a variety of disciplines. He served as president of UC’s South Asian American Student Association, where he helped organize campus events celebrating Indian culture. Last year, he was named king of UC’s Homecoming.

Emmert, a Barry Goldwater Scholar, volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. He conducted gene-editing research to treat disease along with partners at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He co-founded the Medical Sciences Ambassadors Program to recruit undergraduates to the UC College of Medicine.

Terrell worked with UC’s Center of Community Engagement to develop a science fair for senior students studying engineering at Hughes STEM High School. He will continue his chemical engineering education at Stanford University later this year.

Cappel, a university honors student in UC’s Lindner College of Business, is graduating with two bachelor’s degrees in marketing and accounting. She studied abroad in England, Australia and France, despite a severe food allergy that can make travel tricky. She completed five co-ops and accepted a position this year at a Cincinnati professional services firm.

Elgafy served as a senior class officer and senator in UC’s Undergraduate Student Government. She has been recognized for her efforts to advocate for underrepresented groups on campus. Besides her volunteer activities as an Arabic tutor at the Orient Learning Academy Tutoring Center, she is an ice hockey instructor and teaches figure skating.

Stegner organized a new astronomy club at UC and joined UC’s Taekwondo team, helping them raise money for new equipment. She traveled abroad to South Korea and China. She participated in UC’s Joint Engineering Co-op Institute, a partnership between UC and Chongqing University in China. Stegner helped create the Engineering Diplomats, a group dedicated to welcoming Chinese students to campus through social gatherings and events.

Likewise, Caitlin Doyle, a doctoral student in English literature and creative writing in UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, and Courtney Giannini, who is earning both medical and doctoral degrees from the UC College of Medicine, were honored with UC’s 2019 Presidential Medal of Graduate Student Excellence.

Doyle was the recipient of several national literary awards and served as vice president of UC’s English Graduate Organization. Her work has been published in journals, anthologies and magazines. She is working on her debut poetry collection titled “The Blue Meridian,” which is the subject of her spring creative dissertation.

Giannini completed the medical scientist training program in UC’s College of Medicine. The program awards both a medical and a doctoral degree. She spent three years of graduate study in the Division of Epidemiology. Giannini contributed to a project to create a free health clinic to serve uninsured patients in Greater Cincinnati.

A sister's tribute

Haleigh Golden posed with the Bearcats statue

Haleigh Golden posed with the Bearcat statue on campus.

The family of the late UC student Haleigh Golden will watch her sister, Taylor, accept Haleigh’s diploma on her behalf. Haleigh Golden passed away suddenly in November after suffering a seizure, her family said.

She was a double major in journalism and communications with certificates in public relations and sports media in UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences. Haleigh Golden also belonged to Lambda Pi Eta, the honor society of the National Communication Association.

She wrote for UC’s student newspaper The News Record,  interned at ABC/Fox News in Columbus and was a contributing writer and editor for the online journal The Odyssey.

UC’s journalism department awarded a $1,000 scholarship in Haleigh’s name this year during its annual UC Journalism Hall of Fame celebration. Her mother, Rishanne Golden, said Haleigh relished her time at UC.

“I would like everyone to know how much of a Bearcat she was,” her mother said. “I can’t articulate just how much she loved being at the University of Cincinnati. I have so many texts and emails telling me how much she loved it there.”

Photos and her writing are memorialized at

More commencement coverage:

UC family finds strength in unity

Be the next accomplished Bearcat

Students graduating from the University of Cincinnati work in innovative and impactful ways. As part of the university's strategic direction Next Lives Here, UC grads achieve academic excellence, maintain an innovation agenda and make an impact in urban areas and around the globe. Apply to UC as an undergrad or graduate Bearcat and make a difference in the world.