Commencement Ceremonies at Allegheny College Celebrate the Class of 2022 and Two Distinguished Leaders

Allegheny College today honored 338 graduating students and presented honorary degrees to two distinguished leaders at Commencement ceremonies held on Bicentennial Plaza in the shadow of historic Bentley Hall.

Honorary doctorates of humane letters were conferred on Douglas Tallamy, Ph.D. — a 1973 Allegheny graduate and noted conservationist, entomologist and educator — and Henry “Hank” Thomas — a pioneering civil rights activist, successful businessman and community leader.

Douglas Tallamy, Ph.D., receives an honorary Doctor of Human Letters at the Commencement ceremony.
Douglas Tallamy, Ph.D., receives an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the Commencement ceremony.

Tallamy is the TA Baker Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he has authored 106 research articles and has taught Insect Taxonomy, Behavioral Ecology, Humans and Nature and other courses for more than three decades. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. He speaks nationwide about his concerns that the approach to gardening must change, contending that the widespread planting of ornamental plants, native to other parts of the world, is creating ecosystem-wide problems.

One of four books Tallamy has authored, “Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens,” was published by Timber Press in 2007 and was awarded the 2008 silver medal by the Garden Writers Association. “Nature’s Best Hope,” a New York Times bestseller, was released in February 2020, and his latest book, “The Nature of Oaks,” was released by Timber Press in March 2021. In 2021, he cofounded Homegrown National Park with Michelle Alfandari. His awards include recognition from The Garden Writer’s Association, Audubon, The National Wildlife Federation, The Garden Club of America and The American Horticultural Association.

Tallamy delivered the Commencement address, encouraging students to save the world by taking grassroots action to solve its biodiversity crisis. He said that an ecological approach to landscaping that emphasizes keystone native plants is “basic Earth stewardship. But it’s stewardship that empowers each one of you to become forces in conservation.”

Tallamy said that the graduates could support those efforts when they are landowners by replacing part of their lawns with keystone native plants and planting pollinator gardens. Or, even if they don’t own property, they can volunteer for land conservancies, parks or preserves.

“Whether you realize it or not,” Tallamy said, “you are nature’s best hope. And she’s counting on you.”

Hank ThomasThomas, who received his honorary degree virtually, is a civil rights activist who participated in protesting segregation laws and was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Over the course of his civil rights activism, Thomas was arrested 22 times. He then went on to serve in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Army medic and was awarded the Purple Heart for his service. After his tour ended, he and a business partner purchased and operated a laundromat. This success led Thomas to other business ventures, including acquiring restaurant franchises and owning several hotels.

Thomas has received numerous awards for his civil rights activism and his business achievements. In 2010, he was inducted into the Atlanta Business League Men of Influence Hall of Fame and received the 365Black Award given by McDonald’s Inc. In 2011, he was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. He is a lifetime member of the NAACP and served on the board of trustees for Morehouse School of Medicine.

Allegheny President Hilary L. Link addressed the graduating students, acknowledging the challenges that they faced during their college experience as well as the challenges that all of humanity has faced during the past two years. She noted that, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has faced accelerating climate change, war, divisive elections and racial reckoning, among other complex, concerning issues. Link told graduates that they are leaving Allegheny with the tools to go out into the world, face challenges with courage and solve big global problems.

Student displays a diploma holder as she exists the commencement stage“Your Allegheny education, no matter what your major and minor, no matter what activities you were part of, no matter with whom you spent your time while here, will serve you as you go out into the world,” Link added. “The connections you have forged with faculty, and with staff, will serve you as you go out into the world.  The friendships that have sustained you during the fun times and the very hard times, will serve you as you go out into the world. And Allegheny College — your college — will always be here for you, as it has been here for 207 years’ worth of students before you.”

In closing, Link shared the traditional charge to the graduates: “Together as the Class of 2022 — as friends and colleagues, joined to generations past and future, move those tassels and proclaim to the world that you are today, tomorrow and always ‘Allegheny.’”