Senior John Andrew Walsh charged his classmates to notice the details in the pursuit of happiness in life after Wabash College when he spoke during the College’s 176th Commencement Ceremony Sunday.
One hundred seventy-two men received sheepskin diplomas from first-year President Gregory D. Hess on a sunny, crisp spring day on the College Mall. Walsh and his classmate, Ryan Adam Cloyd, were the featured speakers per Wabash tradition on an afternoon that marked both endings and new beginnings.
“Endings are never easy. Thankfully, that is not why we are here,” said Dr. Hess. “Spring is a time to celebrate renewal and the future. Surprisingly, this timing of commencement seems to sidestep the inconvenient issue that we are marrying the ending of one aspect of your life with the beginning of a new one. And in this blending of the new and old — in this connection between the yesterdays and the tomorrows — the new tomorrows simply win.”
Walsh, winner of the Frank Hugh Sparks Award for All-Around Student Achievement, used his father, Kerry, Lou Gehrig, and classmate Jimmy LaRowe as examples of dealing with and overcoming life’s obstacles in finding true happiness in life.
Walsh charged fellow graduates to appreciate life’s little things as a way of keeping proper perspective.
“True happiness is wanting what you already have,” said Walsh. “Obviously, all of us want success and want to achieve, yet we can’t get caught up in the next goal and the next goal and forget to enjoy the journey…Don’t let that determine your happiness. If you take the perspective that true happiness is wanting what you already have, you will be better able to appreciate the little things, the things many of us, including myself, often overlook.”
President Hess reminded the graduates of education’s simple gifts and the joys of brotherhood.
“Be assured, gentlemen, that your Wabash education has provided you with the simple gifts you need to find your way into your new tomorrows; to make good and to do good; to find meaning and purpose in life and to celebrate it,” he said. “We gave you the keen eye of education so that you might see diverse points of view and to be challenged by them, augmenting your own point of view. We coaxed you to write your own story, so know that ultimately, the greatest education and the greatest gift we gave you here at this College, was each other.”
The College awarded honorary degrees to a trio of Wabash alumni during the ceremony: business leader Stephen L. Ferguson ’63, entrepreneur David J. Lahey ‘60, and civic leader David Warren Givens ’56.
Cloyd, the College’s other Commencement Speaker and co-winner of the John Maurice Butler Prize for Scholarship and Character, pressed upon his graduating class the responsibility to feed the curiosity that has been instilled in them during their time at Wabash.
“Wabash has instilled a desire to know more, a constant questioning of why things are the way they are,” said Cloyd. “Don’t let that desire fade away. It will have to be balanced with many other responsibilities, but it does not mean that it isn’t worth the effort. Constantly expanding your own horizon is the best way you can lead a fulfilled life after Wabash.”
Before ringing the bell Caleb Mills used to call the very first Wabash students to class, President Hess urged these 172 Wabash graduates to take on life’s future challenges with confidence, “Go forth Gentlemen of Wabash and leave this place with pride in your accomplishments and confidence that you will make a difference in this world.”
After acknowledging the ebbs and flows of his collegiate career, Walsh concluded, “We view Wabash as a place that forced us to come out of our comfort zone, a place that challenged us to think in ways we never even considered, and a place that made us better men because of how this College educated us.”
Earlier in the day, Dr. Derek Nelson ‘99, associate professor of religion and director of the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program delivered the Baccalaureate sermon, “Knowledge and Wisdom.”
“As you start to figure out how to take knowledge and make it wisdom, as you take a degree and fashion it towards a career, as you take the experiences of classroom and lab and find your place in the world, I hope you’ll remember the beginning of changing knowledge to wisdom is to find someone who needs you. For that person, be the one,” he concluded.
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On Saturday, 22 students were inducted into the Wabash chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest honorary society; the list included seniors Adam Barnes (Bradford, Pa.), Samuel Bennett (Indianapolis, Ind.), Bryce Biberstein (Markle, Ind.), James Blaich (Crawfordsville, Ind.), Scott Campbell (Rushville, Ind.), Nathaniel Chapman (Evansville, Ind.), Michael Del Busto (Carmel, Ind.), Kevin Downey (Michigan City, Ind.), Cory Kopitzke (North Vernon, Ind.), Matthew Michaloski (Evansville, Ind.), Jared Miller (Wildwood, Mo.), James Morrison (Merrillville, Ind.), Taylor Neal (Yorktown, Ind.), Peter Nicksic (Valparaiso, Ind.), Adam Pagryzinski (Leo, Ind.), Mark Riffle (Greenwood, Ind.), Patrick Stroud (Noblesville, Ind.), Jared Valentine (Portland, Ind.), John Walsh (Clinton, Ind.), Bradley Wise (Monroe, Ga.), and Michael Witczak (Indianapolis, Ind.).
Those seniors join Cloyd, who was elected as a junior last year. Junior William McManus (Fort Wayne, Ind.) also was inducted from the Class of 2015.