May 11, 2013 – Allegheny College today honored 467 students and five distinguished leaders at Commencement ceremonies in the 198th year of the college.
Historian and conservationist Douglas Brinkley, who was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters at the ceremony, delivered the commencement address.
A professor of history at Rice University, Brinkley is a bestselling author and presidential historian for CBS News. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, the New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly, Brinkley has been described as “a man who knows more about the presidency than just about any human being alive.” Eight of his books have been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year.
Brinkley told the story of Rosa Parks, whom he profiled in a biography, and whom he described as someone who had the courage to say, again and again, “That’s not right” when she saw injustice.
“Today you have to be the new generation that calls out injustice when you see it,” he told the students gathered for graduation. “Be honest and you’ll go far. But also be brave and don’t let injustice have any role in American society.”
Eddie Taylor Jr., Allegheny Class of 1987 and chairman of the college’s board of trustees, welcomed the graduates and their families.
“We know it’s great to have passion. It is critical of course to inform that passion,” he said. “You clearly value education, as you are about to be graduates from this exceptional undergraduate institution. Don’t stop listening or learning just because class is dismissed. Continue to educate yourselves on those causes, those passions. Be wary, however, of letting those passions polarize you. It is by truly understanding the details of issues, keeping your minds open to others’ interests, others’ points of view, the positions others take on a topic, that you will be able to effect the type of positive change that can be widely embraced.”
In addition to Brinkley, honorary doctorates of humane letters were conferred on the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, Morris P. Fiorina, James E. Nevels and David M. Shribman.
Joan Brown Campbell, the first woman director of religion at the Chautauqua Institution, has worked for peace and social justice alongside such world leaders as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and former President Bill Clinton.
Morris P. Fiorina is the Wendt Family Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution. A graduate of Allegheny College, he has written widely on American government and politics.
James E. Nevels is chairman of the Swarthmore Group, an investment advisory firm that he founded in 1991. In 2001 he was appointed chair of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission to oversee the turnaround of the financially distressed Philadelphia School System.
David M. Shribman has been executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette since 2003. A Pulitzer Prize winner in 1995 for his coverage of Washington and the American political scene, he writes a nationally syndicated column, “My Point.”
Saturday’s ceremony concluded with Allegheny president James H. Mullen Jr.’s charge to the class of 2013. He called on graduates to achieve at the highest level as professionals and as citizens, to employ the full measure of their promise and potential, to live lives of courage and conviction, to see and appreciate beauty even where others may not, to find joy and laughter in the challenge of their days and to never forget what it means to be a friend.
“I charge you to love this place that has been your home for the last four years,” said Mullen. “As it approaches its third century, help it as it sets the standard of excellence for liberal arts learning in America.”
The 32nd oldest college in the nation, Allegheny College will celebrate its bicentennial in 2015.