Carthage College awarded degrees to about 600 students on Sunday, May 21, 2017, during its Commencement ceremony in the N. E. Tarble Athletic and Recreation Center Field House. The ceremony was a joyful finale to four amazing years at Carthage — and a fitting end to a beautiful Commencement weekend celebrating the accomplishments of the Carthage Class of 2017.
Commencement Speaker Vivian Onano ’14 gives graduates empowering sendoff
Urging the Class of 2017 to put the knowledge and purpose they’ve uncovered at Carthage toward the greater good, Vivian Onano ’14 punctuated her Commencement address by leading the audience in an “empowerment clap.”
Ms. Onano, a global youth leader and advocate for women and girls, flew in from Johannesburg, South Africa, to deliver the address. She gleaned examples from the passions that she cultivated in her own college years: education for girls worldwide and gender equality.
“You don’t have to save 1,000 or a million lives to feel like you’re making a difference,” Ms. Onano said. “Just start with one.”
With a deep interest in redefining Africa’s growth and development, Ms. Onano has continued to build on the expansive advocacy work she began while attending Carthage. She addressed graduating seniors three years to the day after wearing her own cap and gown.
“Don’t make the mistake of comparing your journey to your fellow classmates,” she said. “Learn to appreciate yourself and acknowledge that everyone’s path is unique.”
President Gregory S. Woodward: Graduates are ‘fully prepared to face uncertainty’
President Gregory S. Woodward addressed a Carthage graduating class for the final time before leaving to assume the presidency at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. He told the new alumni it’s OK to admit they don’t have all of life’s answers.
From airplanes to medicine, President Woodward listed some of the historic discoveries that started with humans admitting their answers were unsatisfactory. He told the graduates that it’s OK to answer “I don’t know” when others ask them what’s next.
“Think for a moment what those three words — ‘I don’t know’ — represent. Could be fear. Could be insecurity. Could be embarrassment. But more importantly, those three words could mean this: Challenge. Opportunity. Growth. Potential. Exploration. Curiosity. And my favorite, adventure,” he told the graduates. “Essentially you’ve all been answering this question for almost a decade or so: ‘What are you going to do when you grow up?” ‘I don’t know’ was a good answer then, and I’m telling you it is a good answer now.
“When you think about it, ‘I don’t know,’ may be the three most powerful words in the history of mankind,” President Woodward continued. “Is there a discovery in our history that didn’t start with those three words? What’s that over the horizon? Why did the apple fall from the tree? … Could I make a machine that flies? What is inside us, and how do I help this sick child? Individuals asked these questions, and the answers were pretty generally, ‘I don’t know.’ And they strove to find a better answer, so we evolved and progressed.”
“What answers have you discovered during your time at Carthage?” he asked the graduates. “What I do know is that each of you leaves here today fully prepared to face uncertainty in the challenges ahead; to explore whatever comes next; to seek your wildest dreams and construct your own definition of success. You have a community of Carthaginians that are so proud of you. We are cheering you on and stand at the ready to support you if and when you need a little help.”
Tim Tennyson ’17, winner of the Distinguished Senior Award, advised them to reflect on their values and beliefs, read critically, and surround themselves with people who challenge those beliefs.
“I truly believe we have only begun to scratch the surface of our potential as thinking beings,” he said.
Two other awards were presented at Commencement:
- Robert Lee Sr., founder of Kenosha-based Lee Plumbing, accepted the Carthage ‘New Town’ Award. It recognizes outstanding leadership in the building of better communities.
- Longtime Carthage benefactor Jan Tarble was recognized in absentia as the recipient of the Carthage Flame for her service to the campus community and beyond. It’s the highest honor the College bestows.
The ceremony punctuated a weekend-long celebration for new graduates. Other campus events included New Alumni Convocation and the Promenade Dinner on Friday night and the interfaith Baccalaureate worship service Saturday evening.