It’s OK not to be OK, class president Skyler Davis told fellow Oberlin College graduates Monday.
“Being strong isn’t about keeping a stoic face or stopping yourself from crying,” she said. “It’s allowing yourself moments of sorrow and still being able to get up even if it’s a long process.”
While at Oberlin, Davis mourned the loss of a grandmother to cancer and friends to suicide.
She was consumed with regret and said her biggest challenge was letting herself cry and express her emotions.
Davis urged classmates to always remember to be kind to themselves: “Failures, loss, (and) tears, are all part of life, but they do not define how far we can go.”
“Our Class of 2018 represents complex identities, from athletes, first generation scholars, survivors, children of immigrants, future scientists and professors, to talented musicians and artists. What you have overcome in your life so far is something to celebrate. So Class of 2018, this is your chance. Take a moment to think about how far you’ve come and the places you’ll go next.”
In all, 592 students from 16 countries graduated with 469 receiving a bachelor of arts degree, 94 receiving a bachelor’s of music, and 29 receiving double degrees through the College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music.
William Vodrey, Class of 1987, was presented the Alumni Medal. It recognizes outstanding, sustained, and unique service to Oberlin. Vodrey has given much of himself to his alma mater, alumni association president Carol Levine said.
Ann Sherif, a professor of East Asian studies, presented an award to Iko and Roy Ebihara for distinguished service to the community.
During World War II, the Ebiharas were among 120,000 Japanese-Americans imprisoned in internment camps by the U.S. government. The couple has confronted injustice based on racial and ethnic differences by teaching school children, college students, and community members about their internment camp experiences and about the need to promote and protect human rights during times of crisis.
They are also founders of Oberlin’s Taiko drum group. Generations of students have visited their home to make drums out of wine barrels and cow hides.
“Like the sound of the Taiko drum, the Ebiharas call the community together,” Sherif said. “Their dynamic personalities and tireless efforts to make our world a better place resonate with Oberlin College’s commitment to community service, lifelong learning, and mutual respect for cultural diversity and difference.”
Cary Fowler, an ardent agriculturalist and advocate for worldwide crop diversity; Christoph Wolff, a widely-published writer on the history of music from the 15th to 20th centuries; and best-selling author and humorist David Sedaris were awarded honorary degrees.
Before the conferring of the degrees, college president Carmen Ambar encouraged students to change the world for the better. The world needs more Oberlin graduates, she said.
“You are my first graduating class. You will always be special because I’ve never know this campus without you. It is difficult to let you go,” Ambar said.
She’s observed students in classes, danced with them at The ‘Sco, witnessed their athletic prowess, and conducted the orchestra at Finney Chapel.
“But maybe most importantly, I’ve watched your humanity and the work that you’ve done. I’ve watched your commitment to causes large and small as you assert yourself in this changing world.”
She told graduates they are ready for what awaits them in the world beyond.
“The only thing remaining for you to do is to go out and fulfill your destiny,” she said.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.