McDaniel College celebrates 140th Commencement
Top academic honors went to Melissa Atkinson, this year’s Argonaut Award – given to the senior with the highest grade-point average – for achieving a 4.18 GPA with a double major in English and Sociology, and to Environmental Policy and Science major Ellen Larson, who received an Edith Farr Ridington Phi Beta Kappa Writing Award for the most well-written thesis.
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Before the ceremony, graduates marched through Memorial Plaza as Old Main bell rang loud and clear. Since 1991, seniors have passed by the bell, now mounted on a brick pedestal, for the ceremony that signals the closing chapter in their academic lives. As first-year students, they each rang the same bell to symbolize the beginning of their college career.
Joining the graduates in cap and gown was McDaniel President Joan Develin Coley, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree and served as Commencement speaker.
As she prepares to retire next month, she related to the graduates how she also is graduating, in a sense, from McDaniel, and she encouraged them to boldly forge forward.
“We have – all of us – been well prepared to embrace challenges,” she said. “The intellectual journey you began here, and the loans you accumulated, and the jobs you have taken to pay for your education are all part of the experience that has helped shaped you, and that have allowed you to walk across this stage today and that will continue to sustain you as you walk off of this stage and into your bright, if still uncertain, futures.”
Coley is concluding her 38th year on the Hill, the last 10 of which she has served as the College’s eighth president. She was elected president on October 20, 2000, after serving as interim president for nearly a year.
McDaniel College’s first female president and the first to be promoted from the faculty ranks, Coley led the college through a major re-positioning that was launched in 2002 with its name change from Western Maryland College. She has proven to be an outstanding advocate and fundraiser as demonstrated with the completion of the Carpe Diem Campaign in December, which raised more than $77 million and set new records of support from trustees, alumni, and even faculty and staff.
Coley has realized many significant goals she set for the college, including the development and adoption of a new more global, interdisciplinary and multicultural undergraduate curriculum, the expansion of post-baccalaureate programs, the creation of the Center on the Study of Aging, and more than $45 million in campus improvements for academic study, student residential life and recreation. Most recently, she led the committee to develop and adopt the new strategic plan that charts the College’s course through 2014.
Joining the faculty in 1973 as Director of the Graduate Reading Program, Coley went on to serve as Dean of Graduate Affairs and Chair of the Department of Education. Before her appointment as president, she served as College Provost for six years, during which time she led the faculty in a revision of the curriculum and co-chaired the committee that produced the 2003-2008 strategic plan.
During her tenure as a faculty member and director of the College’s graduate program in reading Coley became a national and international authority in the field, with scores of published papers and books and more than 100 presentations, including many at national conferences.
A native of Philadelphia, Pa., Dr. Coley received an A.B. with honors from Albright College. She went on to earn both her master’s and doctorate in education from the University of Maryland. Her numerous honors include the 1989 Outstanding Teacher Educator in Reading given by the Maryland Council of the International Reading Association. She has published extensively, writing articles and reviews for national journals and has authored, co-authored and edited several books.
In a time-honored tradition, McDaniel’s faculty, staff and administration again tried to guess exactly what time Commencement would end. Communication Associate Professor Jonathan Slade’s guess (4:13:08 p.m.) came closest to the 4:13:26 p.m. close of the College’s May 22 ceremony.