Celebrating Oxford's Commencement

179th Commencement | May 11, 2024


Oxford College celebrates students’ completion of their first two years of undergraduate study

Students celebrating Commencement at the Gas South Convention Center in Duluth, Georgia.

On May 11, Oxford’s 179th Commencement ceremony began to the familiar sound of bagpipes, each note in celebration of the 480 graduates who completed the college’s transformative two-year curriculum. In the fall, these students will transition to Emory’s Atlanta campus, where they will continue their work toward a bachelor’s degree at one of three Emory schools: the Emory College of Arts and Sciences, the Roberto C. Goizueta Business School, or the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

Dean Badia Ahad, presiding over her first Oxford Commencement, reminded students that they did not get to this point of “participating in a thousand-year-old tradition and rite of passage” alone. There, in the ballroom of the Gas South Convention Center, they were surrounded by the community that supported them along the way. Dedicated faculty, supportive staff, and caring family and friends had all come together to celebrate this important milestone and to wish them well in their next steps. This community, she reminded students, is the core of the Oxford experience.

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Oxford students celebrating commencement.
Oxford students celebrating commencement.
Oxford student procession into Thomas P. Hughes Ballroom.

“This is my first Oxford Commencement, and although I wish we were celebrating on our historic campus quad, I am just so happy that we’re here together,” she said, acknowledging the change of venue. “Community is more than a physical space. It is a feeling—a feeling that comes from shared experiences; shared values; and a deep sense of trust, belonging, care, and compassion for one another. The heart of Oxford is right here in this room as we celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of our students.”

In his invocation following Dean Ahad's remarks, Oxford Chaplain Lyn Pace encouraged students to give thanks for the fullness of their journey—and to take a moment to breathe and reflect on their two years at Oxford.

Emory University Mace.
Oxford Commencement 2024 Platform Party

Oxford Commencement Platform Party (left to right): Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda, Dean of Emory College of Arts & Sciences Barbara Krauthamer, Dean of Oxford College Badia Ahad, Keynote Speaker and Emory School of Medicine Assistant Dean of Research Cores Cassandra L. Quave, and Oxford Chaplain Lyn Pace

Oxford Commencement Platform Party (left to right): Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda, Dean of Emory College of Arts & Sciences Barbara Krauthamer, Dean of Oxford College Badia Ahad, Keynote Speaker and Emory School of Medicine Assistant Dean of Research Cores Cassandra L. Quave, and Oxford Chaplain Lyn Pace

2024 Commencement Ceremony.

Commencement 2024 Procession.

Dean Ahad noted that this year’s graduates—like all who came before them—would always find a welcoming home at Oxford. But with a bevy of opportunities awaiting them in Atlanta, she called keynote speaker Cassandra L. Quave to the stage to share a few words of wisdom.

A recent recipient of a Guggenheim grant, Quave is an esteemed Emory faculty member with a number of roles across the university: an ethnobotanist and curator of the Emory Herbarium, Emory’s assistant dean of research cores, and associate professor of dermatology in both the School of Medicine and the Center for the Study of Human Health.

Quave’s speech touched on the symbiotic relationship between humans and their environment. Each student, she noted, had an important role to play, regardless of their career path.

She called their attention to the legacy of Dr. William Murdy, a familiar name on the Oxford campus as a former dean (1987-1999) and the namesake of one of the college’s largest residence halls. Before his time at Oxford, Murdy was an Emory biology professor and the director of the Emory Herbarium for 16 years. Quave shared that he once noted, “Providing students with a sound ecological perspective on the world should be an essential part of any liberal arts curriculum.”

Quave also urged students not to be discouraged by the challenges ahead of them—environmental and otherwise.

“You can be a big part of innovating solutions for the future,” she said. “Like Dr. Murdy, you can be a dreamer and a doer…. As you prepare for the next steps in your educational journey, heed these words: Have courage. Cultivate hope. Celebrate creativity. Be kind to yourself and each other. Respect, connect, and care for nature.”

Emory School of Medicine Assistant Dean of Research Cores Cassandra L. Quave delivered Oxford's keynote address.

Molly McGehee—Oxford senior associate dean for teaching, scholarship, & strategic initiatives—was presented with the 2024 Exemplary Teacher of the Year award, an Emory-wide distinction that honors a faculty member for significant contributions to the university.

Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda introduced the award and shared that McGehee has made a “meaningful and lasting impact upon her students’ academic development and the professional development of her colleagues” in her 10 years at Oxford.

“She is celebrated by her students and fellow faculty for her engaging, empathetic, and inclusive pedagogy,” he said. “Her nominators praised her as an exceptional scholar, mentor, and fearless advocate for her students and faculty. She was even referred to as a ‘teacher of teachers.’ [Her] reputation as a principal leader across the Oxford and Atlanta campuses is reflected in the countless contributions and acts of service [she] has provided to the Emory community.”

Read more about McGehee’s story and impact at Oxford and Emory.

Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda and Dean of Oxford College Badia Ahad presented Dr. Molly McGehee with the 2024 Emory' Exemplary Teacher Award.

Provost Bellamkonda and Dean Ahad pose with Molly McGehee, recipient of Emory's 2024 Exemplary Teacher of the Year Award.

Provost Bellamkonda and Dean Ahad pose with Molly McGehee, recipient of Emory's 2024 Exemplary Teacher of the Year Award.

Oxford student celebrating the Commencement ceremony.

Madeleine Lepley was the 2024 recipient of the Virgil Y.C. Eady Sophomore Service Award, now in its 54th year of recognizing outstanding and selfless service to the Oxford community. The award was presented by Co-Interim Dean of Campus Life Amanda Yu-Nguyen.

“Your enthusiastic and joyful spirit is an undeniable asset to our community,” Yu-Nguyen told her, citing her work with Volunteer Oxford and the Oxford Cancer Foundation, as well as her two-year stint as a varsity athlete on the cross-country team.  “One of your supporters aptly describes you as ‘a truly selfless leader whose greatest strengths are her sensitivity and commitment to creating a more just and inclusive campus for all.’ The Eady Award transcends a mere accumulation of achievements or leadership titles. It recognizes the selfless spirit, unwavering commitment to service, and the caring heart that define you.”

Dr. Amanda Yu-Nguyen presented Madeleine Lepley with the 2024 Y. C. Eady Sophomore Service Award.

Co-Interim Dean of Campus Life Amanda Yu-Nguyen presented Madeleine Lepley with the 2024 Eady Sophomore Service Award.

Co-Interim Dean of Campus Life Amanda Yu-Nguyen presented Madeleine Lepley with the 2024 Eady Sophomore Service Award.

Oxford students celebrating commencement.

Associate Professor of Biology Sarah Fankhauser was the recipient of this year’s Emory Williams Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching, which is presented to a member from each of Emory’s undergraduate schools.

Kristin Bonnie, Oxford senior associate dean of academic affairs, announced the award.

“This year’s recipient has been a valued teacher and mentor at Oxford College for nearly a decade,” Bonnie said. “An ardent educator, communicator, and self-proclaimed lover of all things science, she has gained the respect of colleagues, the appreciation of her students, and the recognition of experts in teaching and pedagogy in her field…. So much so, that on certain days, her colleague shared, she even dresses the part. From her earrings down to her double helix adorned shoes, she helps her students to not only learn science, but to love to learn science.”

Ever true to form, Fankhauser was unable to attend the ceremony due to a teaching commitment. She and 12 Oxford students, along with Professor of English Gwendolynne Reid, were headed to the airport for a trip to London—the final step in a jointly taught class on the evolution of the scientific research article.

Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Kristin Bonnie

Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Kristin Bonnie presented this year's Williams Award.

Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Kristin Bonnie presented this year's Williams Award.

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Sarah Fankhauser recipient of Emory Williams Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching.

Associate Professor of Biology Sarah Fankhauser was the 2024 recipient of the Emory Williams Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching.

Associate Professor of Biology Sarah Fankhauser was the 2024 recipient of the Emory Williams Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching.

Dean Badia Ahad passes out degree at Oxford 2024 Commencement

Provost Bellamkonda giving Emory Leader Remarks.

Bellamkonda addressed the graduates and encouraged them to carry their curiosity, as well as their passion for community building and serving the world, to Atlanta.

“Today we celebrate you; your creativity; your drive to lead and change the world; your incredible intellect; and, importantly, in true Emory fashion, your heart to serve others,” he said. “I know I don’t have to tell you that Oxford is a very special place. No other liberal arts college offers quite what you’ve found at Oxford…. In your time here, you’ve used your skills, talents, and hard work to better your community—to lead clubs and to launch new programs and initiatives working with campus and community leaders to truly create positive change…. I know you will shape the Atlanta campus just as you have the Oxford campus.”

Provost Bellamkonda giving Emory Leader Remarks.
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Oxford students celebrating commencement.
Oxford students celebrating commencement.
Oxford studens celebrating commencement.

After the conferral of degrees, Barbara Krauthamer, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, welcomed the latest Oxford graduates to the Atlanta campus and emphasized the unique, profound nature of their academic path.

“Oxford College is a tremendously special place where you have forged strong friendships with your peers and rewarding connections with your professors, your advisors, and your mentors," she said. "These relationships will continue to serve you well in the months ahead as you move to the Atlanta Campus and begin the next chapter of your life as an Emory student.... You will find things that are familiar and things that are a bit strange when you move to the Atlanta Campus, but, most of all, you will find a community that is eager to welcome you."

Emory College of Arts & Sciences Dean Krauthamer giving Emory Leader Remarks.

Oxford Students seated for Commencement 2024
Dean Badia Ahad speaking during the commencement ceremony.

Following the ceremony, all gathered for a reception, encouraged by final words from Dean Ahad:

“As you continue your academic pursuits in Atlanta, I encourage you to step fully and authentically into who you are, what you value, and how that will translate into a meaningful life—not just a meaningful career…. I urge you to envision the kind of world that promotes the best parts of what it means to be human—and a society in which justice and inclusion are what defines us. I hope you will depend on your moral compass as you learn and lead others, that you will be an example and prove the power of education not only for yourselves, but also for your families and everyone you meet along the way.”

Didn’t get to view Oxford’s Commencement ceremony? The video is available for viewing below.

Oxford College of Emory University | May 15, 2024

Designed by Kristine Gonsalez and written by Daniel Christian. Photos by Paul Beezley of Atlanta Event Photography and video by Matt Smith.

Memories from the 2024 Commencement ceremony.