McDaniel College awards 845 bachelor’s and master’s degrees

May 21, 2011

The cheers of family and friends of the Class of 2011 echoed across McDaniel’s hilltop campus as 417 bachelor’s and 428 master’s candidates received their degrees May 21 during President Roger Casey’s first and the college’s 141st Commencement ceremony.

From 18 states and six countries, the graduates completed studies in 43 majors – including new majors in Asian Studies and Cinema – and are headed for France, Costa Rica, Scotland, Hungary, California, Maine, Texas, Idaho and all points in between.

Rachel Louise Smith, with a self-designed major in Classical Studies, earned the college’s two top academic honors, the Argonaut Award for achieving the highest grade-point average of 4.15 and the Edith Farr Ridington Phi Beta Kappa Writing Award for the best Honors paper. A graduate of St. John’s at Prospect Hall, she is the daughter of Elizabeth and Bradford Smith of Frederick, Md.

The close of the academic year marked the retirements of Professor of Biology Louise Paquin after 30 years and Hoover Library Access Services and Outreach Coordinator Jane Sharpe after 40 years. Both were granted emerita status by the college’s Board of Trustees.

Before the ceremony, graduates marched through Memorial Plaza at the center of campus as President Casey rang Old Main bell. Since 1991, seniors have passed by the bell, now mounted on a brick pedestal, for the ceremony that signals the closing chapter in their McDaniel College years. As first-year students, they each rang the same bell to symbolize the beginning of their college career.

President Casey ringing Old Main bell.

In his remarks, Casey invited graduates to return to the bell and ring it again after the ceremony.

“Wear your ‘I am McDaniel’ buttons around the world and friend us with regular updates so that we can swagger anew with all that you will accomplish,” Casey told the graduates. “You have amazed us with your intellect and we have learned much from you along this journey.”

Joining the graduates in cap and gown were honorary-degree recipients Rebecca Hoffberger, founder and director of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and Irene Lewis, artistic director of CENTERSTAGE in Baltimore. Hoffberger and Lewis addressed the graduates.

Board Chair Marty Hill, honorary-degree recipients Rebecca Hoffberger and Irene Lewis, President Casey.

After 10 years of planning and dreaming that included a $7-million fund-raising campaign, Hoffberger opened America’s official national museum and education center for self-taught artistry. It has become the place Hoffberger spoke of in her 1995 inaugural address, a place “where the best of self-taught, intuitive contributions of all kinds will be duly recognized, explored and then championed in a clear strong voice.” In celebration of its 15th anniversary, Hoffberger co-curated with “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening and artist Gary Panter the museum’s “most delight-filled exhibition to date, exploring ‘What Makes Us Smile?’”

Hoffberger praised the vision of McDaniel founders, who opened the college’s doors to all right from its beginnings just a few years after the Civil War.

“Vision is the art of seeing things differently – seeing relationships and possibilities where others simply don’t,” Hoffberger said. “Conventional thinking is the ruin of our souls, something we borrow that is not our own.”

Honorary degree recipient Lewis is preparing to retire at the end of June. She has directed a broad range of classic and contemporary plays that include Shakespeare, Molière, Chekhov, Wallace Shawn, August Wilson and George F. Walker. A guest faculty member and director at several universities, Lewis has directed at many regional theaters, among them Seattle Repertory Theatre, Sundance Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival and New York Shakespeare Festival. Prior to coming to CENTERSTAGE, Lewis was a producer and director at Hartford Stage in Connecticut, becoming associate artistic director there.

“It may take you ten jobs and internships,” Lewis said, encouraging the class of 2011 to keep looking until finding something to be passionate about. “Confucius says to find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Professor of Biology Emerita Paquin joined the McDaniel College faculty as Assistant Professor of Biology in 1980. After receiving her Ph.D. in Genetics of Higher Organisms from Georgetown University, Paquin completed a postgraduate fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and taught at several educational institutions before coming to McDaniel. She was awarded the Ira G. Zepp Distinguished Teaching Award in 2002.

Paquin has been an outstanding teacher and a person who is fiercely dedicated to issues of social justice. Among the many topics of her publications are ethical issues in science and health and interdisciplinary teaching. Paquin’s publications also include papers on her work on sigma viruses in Drosophila and in humans on X-linked lymphoproliferative syndrome, the genetics of neoplasia, and the activity of Epstein-Barr virus as an oncogen and as a mononucleotic agent.

Paquin was chair of the Biology department from 1996 to 2006, a time of incredible change. During this decade, she led the Biology Department through the planning and occupancy of the new Eaton Hall, an increase in the size of its faculty, and the planning for major reform of the Biology curriculum at the college.

Associate Librarian Emerita Sharpe has held numerous positions in the library, including Acquisition Assistant, Cataloguing Assistant, Library Associate of Technical Processes, Associate Library Administrator and Office Manager, Catalog Librarian and most recently Access Services Librarian, since joining the staff in 1970. She earned her bachelor’s in Library Science at Millersville University and an M.L.A. at McDaniel in 1983.

Sharpe’s ever-popular Books Sandwiched In events have resulted in gifts of books across the country and no doubt around the world. She has served on campus community committees through three fund-raising campaigns, and counts among her most memorable times the expansion and renovation of the library in 1991 at the same time the library was moving into the electronic age.