Three-hundred and twenty-seven members of the Class of 2015 graduated on Sunday, May 24, at Centre College’s 192nd Commencement ceremony in Newlin Hall at the Norton Center for the Arts.
The Class of 2015, representing 34 states and two foreign countries, not only ranks as one of the largest in Centre’s history but among the most impressive.
Leading the state with a four-year graduation rate that exceeds 80 percent, a number that places Centre among the highest in the nation, the class presented a distinguished listing of scholars. Eighty-four students graduated with honors: seven summa cum laude, 35 magna cum laude and 42 cum laude. Among the seniors were 36 members of Phi Beta Kappa, 10 Brown Fellows, 9 Posse Scholars and 270 students (83 percent of the class) who studied abroad at least once during their four years at the College.
Maria Sullivan and Eric Beyerle were recognized as this year’s valedictorians.
Sullivan, of Dayton, Ohio, received the Gavin Easton Wiseman Valedictorian Prize for the top female graduate. An international studies and Spanish double major graduating summa cum laude, Sullivan was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and also received the Shelley Rodes Holman Award, presented to a senior judged to have shown the greatest enthusiasm for the ideals of international relations. She plans to pursue a masters of public administration at Wright State University.
Beyerle, of Louisville, Ky., received the George Winston Welsh Valedictorian Prize for the top male senior. A chemical physics major graduating summa cum laude, Beyerle was a cross country student athlete and member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Pi Sigma, a national academic honor society for physics. He will attend graduate school at the University of Oregon.
Members of the graduating class also featured a Fulbright winner, Parker Lawson of Louisville, Ky., who will spend next year teaching English in Spain. Lane Walker of Topeka, Kan., and Kyle Bezold of Midway, Ky., will also teach English abroad thanks to the competitive Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, sponsored by the Japanese government. Emily Stephenson of Lexington, Ky., received the Rotary District 6710 Global Grant Scholarship to study at the University of Sheffield in England.
Crit Blackburn Luallen, Kentucky’s 56th lieutenant governor and a Centre alumna and trustee, delivered the Commencement address. Regarded as one of the Commonwealth’s most experienced and admired public officials, Luallen’s distinguished career in public service began with a degree and a charge from Centre in 1974 to “go out and make a difference in the world”—a challenge she passed forward to the Class of 2015.
“I offer you a challenge today to be as involved a citizen leader as you possibly can,” Luallen said.
“Contribute to the greater good, no matter where your career path takes you. Build your lives and careers on a foundation of integrity and a commitment to lifelong learning, and draw strength from great mentors.”
These valuable lessons, she said, were learned at Centre, and she carried them throughout her career.
“Take seriously the responsibility that comes with the legacy of the Centre experience. And take seriously your role as a leader of tomorrow.
“Give all of yourself that you have to give to make a difference in the world,” she later continued. “And always remember that your happiness won’t be measured by how much you get—but by how much you give.”
Luallen received an honorary doctor of humane letters during the ceremony, as did Robert T. Brockman, chair and CEO of Reynolds and Reynolds Company, a leading supplier of auto dealership management tools. He is a former chair of Centre’s board of trustees and a member of the Class of 1963.
Brockman is Centre’s most generous benefactor. He has endowed a scholarship in memory of his grandmother and built Pearl Hall, a residence hall named for his grandmother and mother. The A. Eugene Brockman Residential Commons is named in memory of his father.
In addition, Brockman played a significant role in the expansions and renovations of Crounse, Sutcliffe and Young halls and the construction of the Campus Center. His philanthropy has also made possible numerous property acquisitions and construction of the South Fields.
Thomas Becker, president of the Centre College Student Government Association, reminded classmates during his senior class response that Centre has been “a place of growth and inspiration, of triumphs and successes.”
“We’re going to miss this place and these people, but we’re going to have to learn how to ‘grow where we’re planted,’” Becker said. “We will face struggles and stress, and we will not always have it easy. But we are going to succeed. We are going to love others. We are going to look back on this ‘college’ thing with pride. And we are going to change this world.”
by Amy Clark Wise
May 24, 2015