By DAVID BORAKS
Former Davidson College President Tom Ross returned to campus Sunday to help send off the Class of 2011, telling 436 graduates their Davidson degrees will create opportunities, but also bring a responsibility to lead.
“Your Davidson diploma places you in a very privileged position compared most people in this world,” President Emeritus Ross told the crowd of students and parents.
“But the position of privilege you occupy and the many opportunities that will come your way bring with them a responsibility to live lives of leadership and service.”
Opportunity and responsibility “go hand in hand. Go forth, do well, do good,” he said during morning commencement ceremonies under the trees in front of Chambers Hall.
Davidson typically does not invite outside speakers to its graduations. This year was a bit different. President Emeritus Ross, a 1972 Davidson grad whose presidential term began with the entry of the Class of 2011, left Davidson in December to become president of the University of North Carolina system. Sunday’s public remarks were the first since his departure, and a chance to say farewell to “his” Davidson class.
Presiding over Sunday’s ceremony was interim President John Kuykendall, a 1959 Davidson graduate. He is expected to step down after the college announces the appointment of a new president, which could be in the coming weeks.
This year’s class came from 36 states and 10 foreign countries, according to the college. More than one-third received honors. First Honor for the highest grade point average in the class was a tie between Daniel A. Martin of Dothan, Ala., and Alison J. Rauh of Trier, Germany, who both had perfect 4.0 grade point averages and graduate summa cum laude (with highest honors). Another 54 were magna cum laude (high honors), and 110 graduated cum laude (with honors).
The most popular majors in the Class of 2011 were political science (67 graduates), biology (49), psychology (48), English (47) and history (41).
During Sunday’s ceremony, the college presented an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree to architect Graham Gund, and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree to affordable housing activist Paul R. Leonard ’62.
Mr. Gund founded his internationally active architectural firm in Boston in 1971. Among his works is Davidson’s own Belk Visual Arts Center, which heralded a new era in the arts at Davidson when it opened in 1994. Mr. Gund carefully designed the building in concert with the overall neoclassical look of the campus.
The citation read as Mr. Gund received the degree praised the building as “a home for a community of artists that also welcomes the public into intimate but generous galleries, with spaces for repose, fellowship and inspiration.”
A college announcement said of the building: “It has earned the nickname ‘Zen factory’ from student and faculty artists because of its simple, elegant design and spaces that welcome light.”
Mr. Leonard began his career in the ministry after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Davidson in 1962. The college said that “early on he recognized the importance of home ownership as an avenue to prosperity and self-respect for the poor, and he became founder and first president of the Charlotte Fair Housing Association.”
Mr. Leonard eventually left full-time ministry to work in private sector affordable housing, and became a leader in the real estate industry. That led him to a longtime involvement with Habitat for Humanity’s global housing ministry. Leonard served the organization as treasurer, board chair and eventually as interim president. His book, “Ministry of the Hammer,” recalls his experiences with the organization.
He and his wife, Judy, live in Davidson. He has served on the Board of Trustees, and chaired the search committee that recommended the hiring of President Ross in 2007.
A citation read Sunday praised Leonard for “blending faith, brilliance, and quiet passion in pursuit of social justice, and using heart, hands and hammer to lift other humans around the world into homes of safety and dignity.”
Senior class president Quentin Graham ’11 announced the class gift to the college’s Annual Fund. He reported 95.3 percent of classmates contributed a total of $10,328. That achievement, led by gift drive chairs Nick Kruter ’11 and Molly Duncan ‘11, allowed the class to claim an additional $12,000 challenge from President Emeritus Ross.
Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Awards, the college’s top teaching honor, went to Associate Professor of Classics Keyne Cheshire and Professor of Anthropology Nancy Fairley. Each award includes $7,500 for the recipient, and $7,500 more for the recipient to designate to a college cause. See related story, “At graduation, honors for Molinary, Cheshire, Fairley.”
The college also handed out the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards, given annually to graduates and local residents with “outstanding spiritual qualities applied to daily living.” Davidson-based writer and activist Rosie Molinary received this year’s community award. Two students also were honored. See related story, “At graduation, honors for Molinary, Cheshire, Fairley.”
REMEMBERING JOHN FRANKEL
President Kuykendall also called for a moment of silence during the ceremony to remember John Frankel, a member of the Class of 2011 who died in a New Year’s Eve automobile accident in upstate New York. Fellow students have started a scholarship fund in his name, and held a variety of events to raise money and celebrate his memory. As of Friday, May 13, it held more than $135,000.
“The sorrow felt in this community over these months has been eased if not erased by the joy of recollection of John’s enthusiastic and caring presence in our midst,” he said.
Thanks to Bill Giduz of Davidson College news office for assistance with this article.
Here’s a gallery of photos from Sunday’s graduation. Click any image to start the slideshow, and use your mouse or arrow keys to go back and forward.