Students marked the completion of their time at Oxford College on May 15 during a modified in-person Commencement ceremony.
This spring, Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) replaced the tree-filled Oxford quad for Commencement. The global pandemic resulted in Emory University hosting events for its nine undergraduate and graduate schools at the GWCC.
Oxford held its 176th Commencement exercises to honor approximately 465 Oxford sophomores’ completion of their first two years of undergraduate study. They will finish their degrees on Emory’s Atlanta campus as students in Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Goizueta School of Business, or Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.
While organizers adjusted some aspects of Oxford’s traditional ceremony to comply with health and safety protocols, many familiar elements remained. The ceremony opened with traditional bagpipes and closed with a recording of the Seney Bell ringing in honor of graduates.
Chief Marshal Susan Ashmore, Charles Howard Candler Professor of History, led the procession of Commencement speakers and special guests.
Oxford graduates who were unable to attend the ceremony in Atlanta were saluted virtually. They also watched the ceremony via live streaming (and on-demand replay).
Oxford’s Class of 2021 listened to keynote speaker James W. Curran, dean of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, in rows of socially distanced chairs.
Curran has served the Rollins School as dean and professor of epidemiology since 1995. He also is co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research and holds faculty appointments in the Emory School of Medicine and the School of Nursing.
Curran joined Rollins after 25 years of leadership at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he attained the rank of assistant surgeon general. In 1981, the CDC chose Curran to lead a task force charged with determining what was behind the first cases of what we now know as AIDS.
In addition to Curran’s address, the ceremony featured recorded congratulatory remarks to the graduates from U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).
Warnock was elected in January to serve in the United States Senate. He is also the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the historic congregation that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also served.
Curran outlined the challenges faced by the United States in the past year, including the COVID-19 pandemic and calling out racial injustice.
“As with HIV and COVID-19, racism and discrimination are issues we can and must resolve together,” he said.
He advised graduates to remember the lessons of this past year for a long time. “Many major crises are tipping points for positive change,” Curran said.
He acknowledged that the early scientific advances with COVID-19 have been astounding with more progress to come.
“You will benefit from these great advances and the post-COVID world will contain tremendous career opportunities in science, technology, public health, and other fields,” Curran added.
“When you look back many years and decades from now, you will see the great benefits of science and solidarity and the roles you yourself will play in facing these challenges.”
“You have succeeded during this challenging period and proved to all of us how much you have achieved and how great you can become,” he said. “Above all be confident and own the lessons from these years. Use the opportunity to imagine a better and safer world and then just make it happen.”
“Instead of falling separately, we can rise together.”
— James W. Curran
The awarding of the Virgil Y.C. Eady Sophomore Service Award and the Emory Williams Teaching Award —a traditional highlight of the day —followed the Commencement address.
The Eady Sophomore Service Award has been presented for over 50 years to the sophomore student who has given outstanding and selfless service to the Oxford College community. This honor is one of the highest honors that Oxford bestows and the only student award given at Commencement.
The 2021 recipient was Hannah Kreuziger from Fayetteville, Ga. Before Dean of Campus Life Joe Moon presented the award to Kreuziger, he asked her mother to stand and also be recognized.
“Hannah, what a legacy you leave at Oxford College,” Moon said.
“The Office of Enrollment Services sings your praises as one of the most effective ambassadors as you patiently and enthusiastically share your experience with prospective students and their families.”
Besides her contributions to Oxford with her work for the admission office, she was a member of the First Year Council, a Brad Edwards Scholar, an orientation leader, president of the German Club, and chairperson of Humans of Oxford.
“It is typical of your character that following a personal tragedy, you founded the Letters to Dad Foundation which assists young people who have experienced loss and grief,” Moon noted. “When you see need or someone in pain, you have the motivation, integrity, and sheer will to be part of the solution.
“Your proven leadership, scholarship, and your kindheartedness suggest the kind of citizen you will be in the larger Emory community and beyond.”
This year’s Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award was presented to Stacy Bell McQuaide. Ken Anderson, dean for academic affairs and professor of philosophy, announced the award via recorded video to McQuaide, professor of pedagogy in English.
Describing her long and distinguished career at Oxford, Anderson described how McQuaide
focused much of her effort on the needs of international students and teaching the first-year writing course created for multilingual students.
“One student said that this faculty member has had a kind of narrow but very deep impact,” Anderson said. “Narrow because the group of international students who would take the multilingual writing course is fairly small, but deep because of the effect this course can have on students.”
McQuaide was the driving force behind the creation of the International Student Advisory Committee. Her mentoring of international students extended beyond the classroom as she regularly invited international students to her home to participate in holiday traditions that might not be familiar to them.
In addition to her impact on international students, she also profoundly affected students through her courses that connected them with incarcerated populations. McQuaide, who has taught these courses since 2010, often took students on visits to local prisons.
These trips helped participants understand what life is like for incarcerated people, introducing students to a group with whom most of them would have had little contact.
“Perhaps this indicates a way to characterize her approach to teaching and to her students,” Anderson said.
“She is always striving to develop sympathy for those who might be misunderstood, whether this sympathy be for our international students with whom she works and for whom she advocates fiercely, or for the incarcerated with whom she creates for our students’ opportunities for mutual learning and respect.”
Presiding over his first Commencement since taking the helm of Emory University in August 2020, Emory President Gregory L. Fenves welcomed graduates to the next leg of their Emory journey.
He invited the audience to watch a video presentation to Dr. Anthony Fauci. Fenves presented the Emory University President’s Medal to Fauci for his “extraordinary, lifesaving leadership” throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to his many years of public service.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, proved to be “a leader uniquely suited for a historic moment” who “helped guide us through the dark days of fear and confusion by explaining the science of viruses with clarity, candor, and precision,” Fenves said.
Accepting the award, Fauci noted his four decades of “significant collaborations and shared experience” with scientists in several Emory undergraduate and graduate schools. He called for trust in science and an end to societal divisiveness to overcome the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
“This global health crisis has changed the landscape of all of our lives, and this has been and continues to be a challenging time for all of us,” he said. “Such times call upon all of us to work together.”
Fauci is only the sixth person to receive both of Emory’s highest honors — the honorary degree, which he was awarded back in 2003, and the President’s Medal, which is conferred upon distinguished university guests whose impact on the world has enhanced the prospect of peace or enriched cultural achievement.
U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock offered congratulations to graduates via a recorded message.
He challenged graduates to take time to celebrate themselves and honor the sacrifices that brought them to Commencement.
“Before the worries of tomorrow come, bask in your accomplishments and thank those that got you here,” said Warnock, mentioning the host of people who encouraged Oxford students during the pandemic from family to custodians on campus.
“Each and every graduate today has a gift to share with the world,” he said.
“You were born to do something distinctive and unique. Don’t rest until you do it.”
The day before Commencement, Oxford College released a recording of an interfaith baccalaureate service.
In keeping with Oxford’s tradition, the recorded interfaith ceremony features music, prayers led by student religious organizations, and remarks from Oxford College Chaplain Lyn Pace.
View Baccalaureate service below.
Didn’t get to view Oxford’s Commencement ceremony? We offered live streaming of the ceremony to those who could not attend in person. The video is available for viewing below. (Pre-ceremony content runs through 1:00:00 on the webcast and the ceremony begins after that content.)
If you were unable to attend Commencement or would like to receive additional Commencement programs, please complete this online form.
Profiles include Oxford’s own Dylan Goldberg
Oxford College of Emory University | May 19, 2021
Designed and written by Lisa M. Jones with writing contributions by Laura Douglas-Brown, Leigh DeLozier, Kelundra Smith, Susan Carini, and Martha McKenzie. Photos and video by Kay Hinton, Jack Kearse, Stephen Nowland, Damon Meharg, Corey Broman-Fulks, and Nader Nikoupour.