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Elon holds 118th Commencement

Rain clouds gave way to a crystal blue sky as the 118th Commencement exercises got underway May 24, 2008, when bachelor degrees were conferred on the largest graduating class in Elon University history.

On a morning when showers threatened to move the ceremony into Alumni Gym for the first time since 1998, luck was on the side of graduates and their families as the sun poked through an overcast haze halfway through the national anthem.

A total of 1,089 students received bachelor degrees this spring. Ten times that number of people filled the seats Under the Oaks, where Elon alumnus Douglas Finberg ’94, the Commencement keynote speaker, offered advice for seniors today preparing to “take the next step” after Elon.

“May I suggest that you strive to take on challenges that are outside your scope of comfort,” Finberg said. “As part of your education at Elon, you’ve pushed yourselves mentally, physically and emotionally. Continue in that vein outside what we all know as that ‘bubble’ of Elon.

“What you will quickly realize is that life is made of lots and lots of ‘bubbles.’”

Finberg suggested that graduates take what they’ve learned in four years and apply it to the problems people encounter in life.

“Elon has prepared you to think critically, to find appropriate answers,” he said. “Now the obligation is yours to use the resources at your fingertips to advance your endeavors. It’s one thing to have a keyboard or touch screen – but it’s another to use it constructively to better your life.”

Senior class president Michelle Lauren Murphree provided the message of appreciation to faculty and to parents for the support they have shown in four years of personal growth. “By utilizing the knowledge and experience Elon has given us, we can provide positive change in the communities in which we live and serve,” Murphree said.

The Board of Trustees conferred an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on Susan Reed Moseley, wife of Elon University trustee Furman C. Moseley ’56. Susan Moseley is a Seattle native and has been a dedicated volunteer, serving over the years as a trustee of the School of Medicine at the University of Washington, the Seattle Art Museum, the Henry Art Museum and the Smithsonian Institution National Board.

The university's new Susan Scholarships, named for Susan Moseley, make an Elon education possible for female students with potential who have limited financial means.

“Susan Reed Moseley is a true philanthropist, generously and selflessly sharing her time and resources to improve and enrich others’ lives,” J. Fred Young, Elon president emeritus, said as he read the honorary degree citation. “Susan is strongly committed to helping individuals realize their potential and knows that education can liberate one from the confines of the current place.

“In coming years, the Susan Scholarships will cause many to know the power of her calling and, hopefully, its continuance.”

In his charge to the graduates to end the ceremony, Elon President Leo M. Lambert asked the new university alumni to keep three things in mind as they venture into the world and confront a litany of social and political crises: civility, sacrifice and service.

“Our democracy and freedoms are precious and require your active participation to survive,” Lambert said. “Surely, it is easier to be close-minded and smug than open minded and civil. It is easier to spend for today than to sacrifice for tomorrow. And it is far easier to be detached from public life than be involved in creating change.

“But you were privileged to be educated at Elon, and the world needs first-rate minds such as yours in charting the course that your children and grandchildren will follow.”

He then held up an oak tree sapling. Each graduate, as has been custom for many years, receives one after Commencement. Lambert reminded them of its meaning.

“The oak is a symbol of strength. Plant your tree, and let it serve as a reminder that you have been prepared by your education to be a strong force for good in this world,” he said. “Remember, too, that we are the Phoenix. We have faith in the promise of renewal and of new beginnings.

“God bless and God speed. Long live Elon!”
News releases are available for parents and 2008 graduates to download for submission to local newspapers. For a custom-generated announcement, click on the link below.

Eric Townsend,
7/1/2008 2:16 PM