Presidential Rap sends McDaniel’s 2014 grads on their way
As family and friends of the Class of 2014 cheered the 361 bachelor’s and 399 master’s candidates who received their degrees May 24 during the college’s 144th Commencement ceremony, President Roger Casey delivered the best graduation gift ever – a rap he composed just for them.
“This is the first class of undergraduates for whom I have served as College president all four of your years,” Casey said to the Class of 2014.
He then brought down the house by performing his rap:
“Four years ago, we started at the very same time.
And at convocation, I dropped you a little rhyme.
Put on my bling, turned around my cap
Surprised you all with a presidential rap.
I said, ‘I am McDaniel,’ and you said it too.”
Before the ceremony, graduates marched through Memorial Plaza at the center of campus as President Roger 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. In his remarks, Casey invited graduates to return to the bell and ring it again after the ceremony.
From 23 states and 11 countries, the graduates completed studies in 54 programs, self-designed majors in Neuroscience and Medieval Studies. Graduates have studied in 30 countries on all but one continent, including Australia, Scotland, Costa Rica, Romania, Senegal, Tunisia, Japan, Zimbabwe, Slovakia and Wales – just to name a few.
They are headed for jobs or graduate studies in Italy, Kenya, Albania, Palestine and the UK as well as in the U.S. from Oklahoma to Oregon, Colorado to Connecticut – four of them to the Big Apple and some are staying right here on the Hill.
Biology and Psychology double majors Jason Stein of Rockville, Md., and Jesica West of Bloomingdale, N.Y., earned the college’s two top academic honors, the Argonaut Award for earning the highest grade-point average of 4.016 in his entire completed course of study and the Edith Farr Ridington Phi Beta Kappa Writing Award for the best Honors paper, respectively. (Read more about them in “High honors presented at Commencement”)
The B. Jill Brooks Hodge Professional Development Award went to Rachel Hansell of Cumberland, Md., who plans to use her master’s degree in Deaf Education to teach deaf and hard-of-hearing students in a bilingual environment. Her graduate thesis research focused on an analysis of the use of fingerspelling in American Sign Language video storybooks for young deaf children. (Read more about her in “High honors presented at Commencement”)
President Casey introduced a new award, the McDaniel Medallion, and its inaugural recipient Vice President of Finance and Administration and Professor of Economics Dr. Ethan Seidel. (Read more in “Ethan Seidel awarded inaugural McDaniel medallion”)
Recently approved by the McDaniel Board of Trustees, the McDaniel Medallion will be presented to a member of the McDaniel community with an exemplary record of sustained and acknowledged contribution to the progress of the college, to the quality of life in Westminster, Carroll County or the region, and who exemplifies the ideals of the college’s namesake, William Roberts McDaniel. The awardee will serve as a role model of the ideals in our students-first mission.
Political Science and International Studies professor Charles Neal received emeritus status upon his retirement after more than 35 years on the Hill. He is the college’s first tenured African-American professor and an expert in political theory, American political behavior and the judicial process. Neal advises students who annually participate in the Model UN program held at Harvard and since 1983, has also served as the pre-law advisor. In addition, he has been an officer on the board of the National Pre-Law Association and worked closely with students helping nearly 600 alumni gain acceptance to the top law schools in the country.
Joining the graduates in cap and gown was honorary-degree recipient alumnus Alan Rabinowitz, whose life’s work of saving the world’s big cats from extinction earned him the title “The Indiana Jones of Wildlife Conservation” by TIME magazine.
Rabinowitz has served as CEO of the conservation non-profit Panthera since 2006, and for almost three decades before that as the executive director of the Science and Exploration Division of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the very organization that operates his childhood refuge, the Bronx Zoo. As a 5-year-old who struggled with stuttering, he found his “voice” there and promised the caged jaguar to speak for animals and keep them from harm.
“It is no exaggeration to say that this school turned my life around. My real journey into manhood and into the world at large began here on the Hill, and created a strong foundation for all the trials and tribulations that life would throw at me in later years,” Rabinowitz said to McDaniel’s class of 2014. “One of the things I am most grateful for is that McDaniel College provided me with a liberal arts education.”
In his passion to save big cats, Rabinowitz sat and negotiated with dictators in Burma, communist leaders in China, a socialist regime in Laos, and numerous insurgent groups around the world. He explained to the graduates that he lived in the homes and followed the customs of Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Shintos, and Shamans – trying to convince people of wealth, and those living in dire poverty and conflict that the world’s remaining tigers, lions, jaguars, and leopards not only have a right to survive but that their existence helps sustain a healthy world for humans.
“The stuttering boy from New York City was able to sit and speak with confidence to such people and on such subjects, because the liberal arts education that started here at McDaniel inculcated in me the capacity for creative thought, innovation, judgment and tolerance, allowing me to reconfigure existing situations to shape a better future for people and animals alike,” he said.
Rabinowitz’ work has taken him to remote parts of the world where he trekked through malaria-infested jungles. By 1984, his research in the Cockscomb Basin persuaded the Belizean government to establish the world’s first and only jaguar preserve. His efforts resulted in the establishment of Taiwan’s largest protected area and last piece of intact lowland forest.
Less than a decade later, his work in Thailand generated the first field research on Indochinese tigers, Asiatic leopards and leopard cats, in what was to become the region's first World Heritage Site; and his work in Myanmar has led to the creation of five new protected areas, including the country's first marine national park, first and largest Himalayan national park, and the world’s largest tiger reserve in the Hukaung Valley.
The city boy who had never even seen a cow until he came to Western Maryland College and graduated with honors in Biology and Chemistry earned his Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from the University of Tennessee in 1981. He has authored over 100 scientific and popular articles and eight books, including most recently “An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar” and a children’s book entitled “A Boy and a Jaguar,” published earlier this month.
In a time-honored Commencement tradition of guessing the exact time the ceremony ends with the first note of McDaniel’s Alma Mater, Sociology professor Deb Lemke came closest with her guess of 4:02:14 p.m., nearly eight minutes longer the actual closing time of 3:54:26.