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1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

Transylvania awards 259 degrees to largest class in its history

Graduating seniors parade around to the front lawn of Old Morrison to take their seats for the 2008 Commencement ceremony

LEXINGTON, Ky.—Transylvania University awarded bachelor of arts degrees to 259 seniors, the largest graduating class in the 228-year-old school’s history. Transylvania President Charles L. Shearer conferred the diplomas on the steps of historic Old Morrison before a sun-drenched crowd of friends and family, faculty and trustees seated on the lawn.

John Churchill, secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, gave the commencement address. He spoke on the role that education in the liberal arts and sciences plays in benefitting both the individual and society as a whole.
“Engagement with the liberal arts and sciences fosters our abilities to use knowledge to make important decisions well,” Churchill said. “It also gives us responsibilities to make the world a better place.”

He urged the graduates to look on their learning as a lifelong endeavor. “Never suppose that you have garnered enough knowledge, become skillful enough at deliberative thinking, or seen deeply enough into the meaning of things. There is no ‘enough.’”

As secretary, Churchill is the chief executive officer and head of the national office of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honorary society. He received his undergraduate education and induction into Phi Beta Kappa at Rhodes College, studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and earned the Ph.D. from Yale University.

Graduating senior Lucie Hartmann, a political science and psychology double major from Asheville, N.C., used the whimsical poetic style of a Dr. Seuss tale to compare the education she and her classmates had received from Transylvania to the delightful variety of a buffet meal.

“Remember your appetite and your hunger for more/As well as your willingness to try new things and explore,” she said. “But the experience of tasting, even the bitter/Is one that has made us all the more fitter. We will make a difference, of this I am sure/For our courage and conviction will always endure.”

William T. Young Jr., chairman of the Board of Trustees, recognized Shearer as he nears the completion this July of his 25th year as president of Transylvania, the longest such tenure in the history of the University. During Shearer’s term in office, Transylvania’s enrollment has increased from 650 to 1,150, the endowment has grown from $33 million to $140 million, faculty and student academic quality have been enhanced, and more new buildings and renovation projects have been completed than those during the tenure of any prior president in school history.

Also during the ceremony, retiring professors James E. Miller, mathematics and computer science, and J. Richard Thompson, sociology, were awarded faculty emeritus status.