Commencement 2014 sends 300 on to next step

May 12, 2014
Commencement 2014 sends 300 on to next step

On Saturday, May 10, Oxford College observed its 169th Commencement exercises.  Approximately 300 Oxford sophomores received associate degrees in a ceremony that marked the completion of their first two years of undergraduate study; as juniors, they will continue on to Emory University’s Atlanta campus.

The ceremony opened by tradition with a bagpiper, playing The Emory and Old St. Andrews March and wearing the colors of Emory University and the University of St. Andrews, Emory's sister university in Scotland.  Then followed the procession of students, faculty and special guests, led by Chief Marshal Eloise Carter, professor of biology. The official Emory mace was carried by Cameron Williamson, president of Oxford’s Student Government Association.

Emory University President James W. Wagner conferred the associate-arts degrees on the graduate.  Oxford Dean Stephen H. Bowen was joined by other Emory dignitaries, including Provost Claire Sterk and Dean of Emory College Robin Forman. 

The speaker for the ceremony was Barbara J. Stoll, president and CEO of Emory-Children’s Center and George W. Brumley Jr. Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. In her Commencement address, Stoll spoke of Oxford as “a very special place with a distinct culture, an outstanding faculty, and a unique model of education…Oxford is like a very close knit family whose members care about and value each other, who get to know each other, who learn from each other, and who understand that our lives and our learning are enriched by this very supportive environment and the rich fabric of diversity among us.”

A highlight of the day was the awarding of the Emory Williams Teaching Award, and the Virgil Y.C. Eady Sophomore Award:

Emory Williams Teaching Award
David B. Gowler, Pierce Professor of Religion, was the recipient of the Emory Williams Award, Emory University’s highest award for excellence in teaching.  It is given annually to faculty members in each college, graduate school and professional school of the university. 

Gowler joined Oxford College in 2000.  Previously he taught at Berry College and was assistant dean for academic affairs and professor of religion at Chowan University. Since arriving at Oxford, Gowler has received numerous teaching awards, including the Phi Theta Kappa Teacher of the Year, the Mizell Award for Superior Performance in Furthering the Education of Students, and a national award, the Jerry G. Gaff Award for Faculty Excellence from the Association of General and Liberal Studies. Gowler also has received numerous grants for teaching, Pierce Institute initiatives, and his academic research, including a stint as a visiting theologian at the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford, England. 

He is the founding director of the Pierce Institute for Leadership and Community Engagement, which now houses 26 affiliated programs that focus on ethics, leadership, and community engagement. He joined the faculty of Emory University’s Center for Ethics in 2009.

Gowler’s books include Host, Guest, Enemy, and Friend: Portraits of the Pharisees in Luke and Acts; What Are They Saying about the Parables?; What Are They Saying about the Historical Jesus?; and James through the Centuries (Blackwell Press, 2013). His books have been translated into French, Korean, and Japanese. He has also published dozens of articles, book chapters, and book reviews, is the editor or coeditor of seventeen books, including a 2012 volume with Oxford University Press, Radical Christian Voices and Practice, and has served as coeditor of Emory Studies in Early Christianity since 1991.  His current project is a book on the reception history of the parables that will be published by Baker Academic Press.

Virgil Y.C. Eady Sophomore Service Award
One of the highest honors that Oxford College bestows, and the only student award given at Commencement, is the Eady Sophomore Service Award, which is presented to the sophomore student who, in the judgment of the faculty and chief administrators, has given outstanding and selfless service to the Oxford college community.  The award was first given in 1969 and is named in honor of the late Dean Virgil Y.C. Eady, who served the college for 37 years.  This year's recipient is Chloe Donegan, a sophomore from Corvallis, Oregon.

The award was presented by Dean for Campus Life Joe Moon, whose remarks noted Donegan’s broad array of accomplishments as an athlete, scholar, campus leader, and concerned member of the Oxford community  A member of Oxford’s women’s soccer team, she was selected most valuable player in her freshman yer, served as co-captain her sophomore year, and recently received the Murdy Award for Scholarship, Service, and Athletics.

As a scholar she was a member of Alpha Epsilon Upsilon Honor Society and served as a writing tutor.  She was a member of the Peer Assistance Leaders, better known as PALs, a sophomore leader for the Leadership Oxford program, a coordinator for student volunteers at a local hospital.  She participated in service during alternative fall break and volunteered with the Path Project, assisting in an after-school program in the local community.

Golden Robes
Marching in procession with the Oxford graduates and faculty were members of the Oxford College class of 1964, the newest members of the Golden Robes, alumni whose graduation year was 50 or more years ago.

Science Building Groundbreaking Ceremony
Following the Commencement festivities, there was additional cause for celebration as Oxford held a ceremonial groundbreaking for a new science building. Faculty, staff, alumni, students, parents, and University dignitaries marked the beginning of this long-awaited science facility.  Construction will begin immediately on the 57,500-square-foot building, designed to meet the needs of Oxford’s strong program in science.  Delivery of the new building is expected by January 2016.

Sustainability Emphasis
In keeping with Oxford’s theme of “A Life in Balance,” this year’s Commencement exercises emphasized sustainability.  Oxford students’ graduation gowns were made completely from recycled bottles.  Available for the first time, the "GreenWeaver" gowns are made of fabric sourced from plastic bottles diverted from landfills. The fabric is described as being softer to the touch than traditional polyester. These gowns are the official gowns for Emory commencement exercises, so Oxford students can use the gowns again for the completion of their undergraduate degrees at the Atlanta campus.

Oxford also observed “Target Zero Waste” during Commencement, receiving a Gold-Level Sustainable Event certification from Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives.  Dining events, receptions, and distribution of drinking water during the weekend used materials that are either recyclable or compostable.  Oxford supports Emory University’s goal to divert from landfills 65 percent of overall waste and 95 percent of food waste by 2015.