Class of 2023 urged to carry Wooster spirit of growing and learning with them after Commencement

smiling graduates

The College of Wooster celebrated the Class of 2023 in its 153rd Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 13, 2023, in the Scot Center with family, friends, and the College community. Commencement speaker Kurt Russell ’94, 2022 National Teacher of the Year and Wooster alumnus urged the 425 graduates to take the “Wooster spirit of growing, learning, and facing difficult challenges” with them as they become members of the broader community.

Visit studyabroad.arkansasresearch.baraduo.com/commencement to view an archived video of the Commencement ceremony, access the official program, and watch archived videos of the Baccalaureate and Multicultural Stole ceremonies.

Congratulating and celebrating the class in his opening address, Interim President Wayne P. Webster acknowledged some of the challenges they had been through in their four years at Wooster from the pandemic to national reckonings around social justice and a political environment that promotes division verses unity. “Those challenges, those low moments in your life do not define you but how you respond to those moments has. How you carry on, how you excelled, how you rose above the sadness and frustration of those moments has made you powerful,” he told the graduates. “You should be confident that you can take on any challenge that lies before you.”

In his commencement address, Russell, who received an honorary degree during the ceremony, challenged the graduates to “remain awake and vigilant during times of difficulties.” A teacher at Oberlin High School in northeastern Ohio before and after his role in education on the National stage in the past year, Russell shared with graduates and their families some of the lessons he’s learned in “room 200,” with his students representing “the demographics of America: white students, Black students, students of color, straight students, gay students, students on the spectrum, and students that are not.” In urging graduates to continue to grow and learn in their perspectives, Russell shared stories of how all these students feel humanized by seeing themselves represented in a diverse curriculum, incorporating the stories of women, Natives, immigrants, and others, and he emphasized the importance of confronting the truth even when it’s difficult. “Being civil is not a task, but an obligation,” Russell said. “Make this who you are, a person that will speak truth to power, by humanizing the existence of all, to create a more civil America. Each and every one of us is connected—our fates are linked. Civil discourse is about dismantling structures that exclude, increasing opportunities for a healthy, more vigorous community.”

Senior speakers selected by Wooster’s Class of 2023 shared some of the ways they had felt included in the campus community in their four years at the College. “The people make this campus enjoyable,” said Zoe Seymore ’23, a psychology major from Fort Worth, Texas. “The people who fight for justice on our campus, from AAAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islander] festivals, to tabling for National Adoptee Awareness Month, to Days of Silence; we never fail to bring to light ways to make our campus a more equitable place to be.”

Ethan Dasilva ’23, a political science and education major from Morton Grove, Illinois, shared how alone he felt when he first came to a school where he didn’t know anyone, and how he learned to reach back out to people who reached out to him. “My hope for you is that you are able to be that person who provides the hand reaching out in friendship, a judgment free ear, and endless encouragement,” he said to his classmates. “I am so thankful for my Wooster friends who have become my family.”

Evoking some of the memories and challenges of a class whose first year at the College ended in online learning, Britta Treu ’23, a communications studies major from Auburn Township, Ohio, said, “Our tartan represents all of us, with our diverse backgrounds and passions, tightly woven together. The fabric of 2023 is especially durable because of those tough times we’ve endured.”

Saturday’s ceremony also featured an invocation led by Wooster Trustee Diane Holt Frankle ’75 chair of the board, chief operating officer, and co-founder of Building Bridges Together and a benediction led by The Reverend Joy E. Bronson ’07, Wooster alumna and pastor of vocational & strategic alignment at Glencliff United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. After the ceremony, the traditional recession of the Class of 2023 was led by the Wooster Pipe Band, and graduates, community members, and families enjoyed the opportunity to gather together to continue the celebration.

Posted in News on May 13, 2023.