Last weekend, Oglethorpe University hosted commencement ceremonies for both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021. This two-day celebration of OU graduates marked the biggest in-person events hosted by the university in over a year.
Both days were graced with clear skies as hundreds of graduates returned to campus to partake in these much-anticipated ceremonies. Donning masks and maintaining distance, graduates and their guests settled in to enjoy the festivities.
Saturday’s commencement ceremony honored the 255 graduates in the Class of 2021. Speaking to the graduates was Georgia State Representative and 2004 alumna Dar’shun Kendrick. In her speech, Kendrick recalled her time spent at Oglethorpe where she paved the way — literally — for change by pushing for new sidewalks on campus. To her, this moment of action in leadership defined what it meant to be a public servant and encouraged all of the graduates to be persistent.
Aleece Bustamante ’21 was awarded the Sally Hull Weltner Award for Scholarship. The award honors the student in the graduating class who has attained the highest grade-point average with the greatest number of hours in course work completed at the university.
Fatima Boumahdi ’21 and Yesha Nayee ’21 received the James Edward Oglethorpe Award. This award is presented annually to two individuals in the graduating class who, in the opinion of the faculty, have excelled in scholarship, leadership and character.
Assistant Professor of Physics Dr. Mariel Meier received the Lu Thomasson Garrett ’52 Award for Meritorious Teaching. This annual award honors faculty who represent outstanding pedagogical skills as recognized by both students and fellow faculty members.
Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Leah Zinner received the Vulcan Materials Company Award for Teaching Excellence and Leadership. This award, which began in 1992, comes with a cash prize from the Vulcan Materials Company through the Georgia Independent College Association and Oglethorpe University. It is considered one of the highest honors for a faculty member.
During the ceremony, graduates were given unexpected news. Alumni Association President Richard Bakare ’03 announced that each graduate would be receiving $100, courtesy of 2001 alumna Harsinie Panditaratne. Read more about her gift here.
Sunday’s commencement ceremony honored the 242 graduates of the Class of 2020, whose commencement ceremony had been rescheduled from last year due to COVID-19.
Addressing the Class of 2020 was retired Atlanta Federal Reserve President and Chief Executive Officer George C. (Jack) Guynn, who has served as an Oglethorpe trustee for 25 years.
Zoe Nelson ’20 was recognized as the recipient of the Sally Hull Weltner Award for Scholarship, and Syeda Bano ’20 and Raquel Battaglia ’20 were recognized for receiving the James Edward Oglethorpe Award.
Assistant Professor of Business Administration Dr. Earl C. Howell received the 2020 Lu Thomasson Garrett ’52 Award for Meritorious Teaching, and Professor of Mathematics Dr. J. Lynn Gieger received the Vulcan Materials Company Award for Teaching Excellence and Leadership.
Graduates: Please check your OU email for your individual commencement photographs by TSS Photography.