Remembering FDR’s Commencement Speech at Oglethorpe

Backstage at the Fox Theatre, Judge Edgar Watkins adjusts Governor Roosevelt's doctoral hood. Dr. Thornwell Jacobs stands to the far left.

On May 22, 1932, then New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt received a Doctor of Laws honorary degree from Oglethorpe University at the commencement ceremony held at the Fox Theatre. He gave a rousing speech about the state of the nation—and that speech went on to become  historically significant as the beginning of the future President’s New Deal plan.

“The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.

We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking!”

Thornwell Jacobs, the President of Oglethorpe at the time, chose to award Roosevelt with the honorary degree “in recognition of his high achievements in statesmanship, economics, and philanthropy.”  (New York Times, March 28, 1931.)

FDR had deep connections to Georgia. He often visited the state for treatment of his paralytic illness. His personal retreat, Little White House, was built on his 1,750-acre farm at the top of Pine Mountain. The farm is now part of Georgia’s biggest state park that was named after him.

Our own President Schall also reflected on this speech in his personal blog.

President Roosevelt’s words withstand the test of time—and his entire Oglethorpe commencement speech is well worth the read!

Relive Oglethorpe’s 2012 Commencement

The academic quadrangle is set up, awaiting commencement.

The Oglethorpe University 2012 Commencement ceremony was held on Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 9:00 a.m., on the academic quadrangle of the OU campus. For a full recap of this special day, see our 2012 Commencement Scrapbook.

President Larry Schall presided over the ceremony honoring more than 250 graduating seniors. During the ceremony, Oglethorpe presented three honorary degrees to:

Zhanna Arshanskaya Dawson, an accomplished pianist, Holocaust survivor, and former faculty at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters.

– Sue Adcock Frueauff, a foundation and community leader, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

– Ted Turner, a renowned leader in business and philanthropy, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Each honorary degree recipient addressed the Class of 2012. Past recipients of honorary degrees include President Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Woodrow Wilson, and Amelia Earhart.

Zhanna Arshanskaya Dawson

Zhanna Arshanskaya Dawson is a Ukrainian-American pianist and former faculty member of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University (Bloomington). Dawson came to national prominence in 2009 after her son, journalist Greg Dawson, published the book Hiding in the Spotlight chronicling his mother’s escape from the Holocaust. A young prodigy, Dawson began piano lessons at age five and made her performance debut at age 6 on the radio. She later received scholarships to attend the Moscow State Conservatory. In 1941, she was forced to flee the persecution of Jews in her hometown. She escaped only to find herself forced to survive by playing her music for Nazi soldiers from the army that had killed their parents. Dawson was eventually adopted and brought to the United States, where she studied music at the Juilliard School of Music.

Sue Adcock Frueauff

Sue Adcock Frueauff has served as a trustee at the Charles A. Frueauff Foundation in Little Rock, Ark. for 22 years. From 1996-2001 she also worked as a program officer at the foundation, and since 2001 has served as chief administration officer. Prior to the foundation, Frueauff worked for 16 years as an elementary school principal in Russellville, Arkansas, and 13 years as a classroom teacher in the Arkansas Public Schools. Frueauff has served on numerous boards and in leadership positions at the Arkansas Tech University Foundation, University of the Ozarks, American Association of University Women (Branch and State President), Arkansas Curriculum Development Association, Suspected Child Abuse & Neglect, Centers for Youth & Families, and many more. She is an active volunteer and leader in her community, having given her time and talents to Arkansas Rice Depot, Stewpot, Interfaith Hospitality Network, Single Parent Scholarship Fund, Arkansas Literacy Council, Child Protection Team, and numerous others. Frueauff earned her Master of Science in Education at the University of Central Arkansas and her bachelor’s at Arkansas Technical University.

Ted Turner

Throughout his career, Ted Turner has received recognition for his entrepreneurial acumen, sharp business skills, leadership qualities, and his unprecedented philanthropy. Whether in billboard advertisement, cable television, sports team ownership, sailing, environmental initiatives or philanthropy, Turner’s vision, determination, generosity and forthrightness have consistently given the world reason to take notice. Turner is chairman of the United Nations Foundation, which promotes a more peaceful, prosperous and just world; co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a charitable organization working to reduce the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; chairman of the Turner Foundation, which supports efforts for improving air and water quality, developing a sustainable energy future to protect the earth’s climate, safeguarding environmental health, maintaining wildlife habitat protection, and developing practices and policies to curb population growth rates; and co-founder of Ted’s Montana Grill restaurant chain, which operates 44 locations nationwide. Turner is also chairman of Turner Enterprises, Inc., which manages his business interests, land holdings and investments, including the oversight of two million acres in 12 states and in Argentina, and more than 55,000 bison.

Seniors Ring in the Fun

Posing w/ Pops

Seniors indulge in frozen treats from King of Pops.

The time of year to say a bittersweet farewell to our seniors is upon us once again.

In less than 24 hours, the graduating Class of 2011 will make their way across that stage, a ceremonial action that reflects the fact they are indeed moving onto the next stage in their lives. 

The seniors have made the most of their last week on campus, taking this last opportunity to spend time together as a class.  They sounded off the week of Senior fun with monster mini golf, on a glow-in-the-dark course. They celebrated Senior Night at nearby Noche restaurant, where they devoured free tapas and drinks. They mingled on the quad during a picnic, complete with games, music, and most importantly, King of Pops, the infamous Atlanta popsicle-maker.  In the popular tradition, Seniors lined up to climb the winding stairs to the top of the historical Lupton Hall bell tower to ring the Carillon bells—a symbolic gesture and privilege shared only by Oglethorpe alums.  Many last minute memories were made throughout the week to add to those from past four years.

Congratulations, Seniors—we’ll miss you! But, we have no doubt you’ll represent your alma mater well, and like true petrels, Make a Life. Make a Living. Make a Difference.

Oglethorpe to Award Three Honorary Degrees at May 7 Commencement

Researcher and author Dr. Richard Wrangham is a trustee of the Jane Goodall Institute and a former trustee of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

The Oglethorpe University 2011 commencement ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 9:00 a.m., on the academic quadrangle of the OU campus. President Larry Schall will preside over the ceremony that will honor more than 250 graduating students.

This year, Oglethorpe will present honorary degrees to three distinguished members of the civic and academic worlds:

Award-winning poet Linda Bierds

–  Award-winning poet and University of Washington Professor of English Linda Bierds will receive a Doctor of Letters honorary degree.

The Honorable Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta, will receive a Doctor of Laws honorary degree.

Dr. Richard Wrangham, the Ruth Moore Professor of Anthropology and Chair of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University, will receive a Doctor of Sciences honorary degree.

Each honorary degree recipient will address the Class of 2011. Past honorary degree recipients include such well-known names as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Woodrow Wilson, and Amelia Earhart.

Additional commencement ceremony details may be found at www.oglethorpe.edu/commencement. Continue reading