Wabash College’s Commencement speakers, seniors Ephrem Chedid and Jared Cottingham, urged classmates to use the lessons learned over the last four years to take chances and invest in others in handling the challenges that await during its 179th ceremony Sunday.
One hundred ninety-nine men received sheepskin diplomas from President Gregory D. Hess on a hot and sunny day on the College Mall. Chedid and Cottingham were the featured speakers, per Wabash tradition, on an afternoon that celebrated the collective accomplishments of the Class of 2018.
Additionally, the College awarded honorary degrees to John C. Schroeder ’69, President of Crescent Plastics and Wabash Plastics and a member of the Wabash Board of Trustees; Remington A. Johnston III ’55, retired Owner of Rem Johnston Printing Company; and John N. Fox, Jr. ’64, retired Vice Chairman and Global Director of Deloitte Consulting, and a member of the Wabash Board of Trustees during the exercises.
“Wabash men in the Class of 2018, it is my honor and privilege to be with you, to have taken part in your joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams, victories and defeats, and to witness your shared lives with one another,” Hess said. “Know that ultimately, the greatest education and the greatest gift we gave you at this College was each other.”
President Hess acknowledged the turning point this day represents – both a glance back and a focus on the future. “This blending of the new and old — this connection between yesterday and tomorrow — this metamorphosis defines your Wabash journey from ringing in to ringing out.”
Chedid spoke of the impacts of chances – of sharing strength and belief – in the people who surround you.
“Chances that were taken on me helped me find the deepest friendships, most meaningful experiences, and taught me more about myself than anything,” he said. “When you take a chance on someone, you give him or her strength. You instill in them a belief that may not have been there or may have just needed a little kick to get rolling.”
Cottingham stressed the importance of the liberal arts in providing the skills necessary to equip a new generation to solve whatever challenges lie ahead. The breadth of experiences here will aid in those solutions.
“Down the line, it may be your Buddhism class, or a Latin seminar that will be pivotal in solving a complex problem; not due to the specifics, but rather the frequent exposure to different ways of thinking that has now provided you invaluable skills for life,” Cottingham said. “I know that seems farfetched, but many times it’s the breadth of what we have to offer that defines us. It’s your unique set of skills that makes you irreplaceable.”
Cottingham noted that the course of study has made the Class of 2018 uncomfortable and stretched, fittingly, which allows for personal growth in a yet-to-be-determined future.
“The world is ever-changing, and unforgiving, gentleman,” he said. “Our current situation is not unique. However, our preparation for what comes after will be, but only if we continue to exercise the vital principles of the liberal arts to leave our comfort zone.”
Chedid concluded with a call to action for his classmates, “Take chances, be daring, be bold, true, and strong. To come in and encourage those around you, to be all these things and more is a gift that our wonderful Wabash and its faculty, staff, and our fellow brothers have imparted on us.”
The day opened with an insightful Baccalaureate sermon, “The Days Ahead,” from the Rev. Adam Fronczek ’01, Senior Pastor at Knox Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“There is no recipe for what job or relationship you’re supposed to have when you leave Wabash. What matters is what you choose to do with and learn from the jobs and relationships you’ve got,” he said. “Commitments and what we learn from them is not something that happens once; it’s a daily discipline to decide who we are and what we care about. Here is my humble recommendation: make some commitments. Get to work. Fall in love. Help other people. Choose to believe in something. Expect for some of it to go badly. When that happens, ask what you learned. Whether it is with your Wabash brothers, your parents, or your Almighty Creator, cultivate relationships with people who will welcome you home when you have failed. The best way to find those kinds of relationships is to be that person to someone else.”