Saturday marked the 121st commencement in Elon University history. There were several commencement ceremonies over the course of the weekend, including Elon’s Master’s programs and the 1,128 students who sat under the oaks to receive their undergraduate degrees.
In total there were 1,295 degrees given out during commencement weekend — 98 law, 37 MBA, 32 iMedia and 1,128 BA/BFA/BS. There were 32 students who graduated with Suma Cum Laude honors (3.9-4.0 GPA), 133 with Magna Cum Laude honors (3.7-3.89) and 193 with Cum Laude honors (3.5-3.69).
Rev. Phillip Smith, associate chaplain and director of religious life, gave the invocation, congratulating students for reaching this day.
Smith started the ceremony off with a laugh by commenting on commencement being on the same date that a radio preacher in Oakland, Cali. has declared the day of rapture.
“This is the day you have been waiting for—judgment day,” Smith said. “I am delighted we can share this final moment.”
He said students are not under the oaks to be judged, but they have already received judgment by receiving diplomas from Elon and are now leaving school perhaps for the last time.
“This is the end of the world as you have inhabited it,” Smith said.
After Smith’s address, Christopher P. Martin, 1978 graduate and president of the Elon Alumni Board, welcomed the graduating seniors to join the ranks of over 32,000 living Elon alumni. He encouraged the graduating seniors to stay involved with the Elon community and to give back to the university and future students.
Next, senior class president, Michael Nowak, gave a message of appreciation.
“Just as we have changed over the past four years, so has Elon,” Nowak said. “Change is good. Not only is it good, but it is necessary, it keeps us striving to be better. We must embrace this time of change.”
He also listed the feelings he and the rest of the Class of 2011 were feeling.
“Nostalgia, happiness, excitement, but there is one superior feeling — achievement.” Nowak said. “Our achievement unites us right now, right here, under the oaks.”
After an introduction by Mark T. Mahaffey, a chair for the Board of Trustees, Vice Admiral William E. Gortney, 1977 graduate and director of the joint staff at The Pentagon, issued his address to the senior class, titled “The Secrets to Guaranteed Wealth.”
“Class of 2011, I have seven simple attributes I guarantee if you follow will lead to the good life and to wealth beyond your wildest dreams,” Gortney said. “Wealth is not measured by money alone, but by the family you keep and the challenges you face.”
He then proceeded to list off the seven attributes — integrity, courage, judgment, passion, excellence, balance and service.
“You are one-fourth of the way through your time on earth,” he said. “You are entering the work force and will be there for almost 40 years. Don’t hate what you do.”
He also challenged the graduates to serve the nation and to remember that liberty is not free as they start off on the rest of their journey.
“Enjoy your future. I envy your journey,” Gortney said.
After the diplomas were handed out to students, President Leo Lambert delivered the charge to the graduates.
“My prayer for you is that your education at Elon has been an inoculation for the disease of complacency,” Lambert said.
Lambert reminded the graduates of the many problems in the world today and said that Elon graduates are needed to solve these problems.
“Progress can be achieved with the knowledge and leadership that you have in your power,” Lambert said. “You have heard me say many times that the world needs Elon graduates. This is the moment, and the world can’t afford to have any of you on the sidelines. We need your minds, so well-prepared at Elon, at work.”
Lambert held an oak tree sapling up for the Class of 2011 to see and announced the last gift from Elon to the graduating class.
“Today Elon has a graduation gift for each of you,” Lambert said. “The oak is a signal of strength. Let it serve as a reminder that you have been prepared by your education to be a strong force in the world. “