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Transylvania graduates largest class in its 231-year history

Commencement 2011LEXINGTON, Ky.—Transylvania University sent 263 graduates into the world Saturday, the most in the school’s 231-year history, during the first commencement ceremony under President R. Owen Williams, who completed his first academic year at the helm. The previous record of 260 graduates was set in 2009.

President Williams
President Williams presents a diploma to Holly Milburn.
On the steps of historic Old Morrison, Aris Candris, president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Company, urged graduates to work hard and take risks while making sure to find a vocation that will fulfill them and bring them happiness, drawing from his experience in nuclear power and environmental issues.

“We have an energy crisis on our hands, and global warming is a very real issue,” Candris said. “And if we don’t do something about it now, we will place future generations at risk. As a society and as a planet, we must get past short-term thinking, and start long-term planning…Every day that I go to work, I sincerely believe that I’m playing a part in leaving this earth better than I found it.”

Aris Candria
Aris Candris '73 delivers the commencement address.
Candris, a 1973 graduate of Transylvania, a member of the board of trustees, and uncle of graduating senior Stamatios Kandris completed his bachelor of arts in three years with three majors—mathematics, physics and pre-engineering, and he earned an M.S. and a Ph.D., both in nuclear engineering, at Carnegie-Mellon University. His 36-year career with Westinghouse has included increasingly responsible positions on both the engineering and management sides of the company, beginning in 1975 with his first role as a senior engineer in the former advanced reactor division.

He reminded the students of the value of their liberal arts educations, regardless of the fields they enter as professionals. After the March 11 tsunami and earthquake in Japan, the state of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been featured prominently in the world media, but Candris said the reality is not as grim as has been portrayed.

“That’s because historically, the nuclear energy industry has done a less-than-adequate job of educating the public as to the realities of nuclear energy,” he said. “We have not been good communicators. And that’s too bad, because we have an excellent story to tell. Although many people can master the technical skills of a job, few also have the communication skills needed to present ideas clearly and concisely. This ability will be invaluable to you in the coming years.”

Virginia HamiltonGraduating senior Virginia Hamilton, a writing, rhetoric and communication major and psychology minor from Bardstown, Ky., addressed the students. She recalled Scott Turow, whose book “Ultimate Punishment” she and her classmates were assigned the summer before their first year at Transylvania for the annual First Engagements reading program.

“Four years ago, we each read the words of Scott Turow and maybe didn’t pick up on the life-long insights he buries beneath the lawful jargon,” Hamilton said. “Now, we leave with more than his explanation of the Illinois state laws on capital punishment. We leave with a new outlook on our active futures. And now, my sentiment for you, in conjunction with Turow’s words and Transy’s mission, is this: Don’t just be an optimist; be a leader. And don’t just be a leader; be a pioneer now, and in the future. Because if we fail to maximize on the potential that Transylvania University has instilled in each one of us, now that would be the ‘ultimate punishment.’”

Interesting Facts about the Graduating Class:

  • The class is academically talented, as confirmed by the fact that 34 percent received Latin honors and 38 percent honors in their academic programs.  Their majors and minors run the gamut, with the most popular being psychology and biology. Six students designed their own majors.
  • The students in this class are extremely well traveled. Sixty-eight percent studied abroad during their time at Transylvania, traveling to 37 countries that include such exotic locations as Belize, China, Guyana, Iceland, Jordan and Thailand—in addition to the more expected study abroad opportunities like Austria, England, France, Germany and Spain.
  • They are well-rounded individuals and have served in Student Government, campus media, clubs and organizations. They’ve volunteered countless hours in community service, completed academic internships and worked at part-time jobs. And while accomplishing all of this, 16 percent played a varsity sport.
  • The graduates will go in many different directions. Some will enter the workforce, as an accountant at Deloitte & Touche, an event planner at the World Equestrian Games and a human resources professional at Toyota. Some will serve others through programs like the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, the Ministry of Education in Spain, the Center for International Education in Thailand and Teach for America in Memphis. There will be an officer in the U.S. Navy Special Warfare Unit and one in the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps.
  • Many will go on to other colleges and universities around the nation and the world, including the London School of Economics, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Chicago, Vanderbilt, Loyola and Carnegie Mellon among others to pursue a variety of health professions, study law and work toward advanced degrees in fields such as biotechnology, rhetoric, art therapy, theology, neuroscience, statistics and many more.

5/28/2011

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