Your education’s just beginning, Bluffton graduates told
For many college students, graduation means that life in the “real world” is beginning and “studying is over,” the mayor of Lima said at Bluffton University’s commencement ceremony May 4.
“I understand this perspective because I lived it,” added David Berger, noting that he skipped two graduation ceremonies—at the undergraduate and graduate levels—because they weren’t important and he didn’t have time for them. “I was done studying,” he recalled. “I needed to make money, to begin to pay my school debt.”
But the seven-term Lima mayor also offered a different perspective to the roughly 260 graduates he addressed at Bluffton’s 114th annual commencement, saying the event marked “the beginning of your education, not the end of it.”
Calling the ceremony “more than a celebration of what you have accomplished,” Berger deemed it “the start of a learning process that you are personally in charge of; that you get to design, direct and make choices about; and that does not involve going into debt to make happen and to sustain.”
His suggestion stemmed, he said, from a realization over time that the more he learns, “the more I discover how ignorant I am” and “the more I am humbled by what I did not and do not know.” Sometimes, he admitted, “I learn things that are so colossal and so fantastic that I am thrilled and overwhelmed,” such as his discovery that Nobel Prize-winning physicist William Fowler grew up in Lima.
The mayor made four recommendations to the graduates, including that they read at least one newspaper every day—“staying connected and knowledgeable about current events in the community you are a part of is important to how you will live your life,” he said; get, and use, a library card; and discuss what they discover in their “self-directed learning” with family and friends.
He also urged them to begin thinking long term. He is a member of the San Francisco-based Long Now Foundation, whose purpose, he explained, is “to challenge us to think about human civilization as far into the future as human civilization has already existed—10,000 years.
“The goal is to define what we want human civilization to be and to develop tools and systems that will help that civilization to emerge,” Berger continued. One of the foundation’s projects, he said, is establishment of a “‘Manual for Civilization,’ an attempt to create a library of some 3,500 books from around the world which humankind would need to re-establish itself should a disaster take place.”
He told his listeners that he hoped to help them understand “that the real value of your education is to be found in the way that it changes your life, changes the lives of those around you and the communities of which you are a part, and changes the lives of the generations yet to come.
“Our learning should never end, nor should the changes that learning stimulates,” Berger added. “Our challenge is to pursue learning with a lifelong passion, a passion fueled by humility and by enthusiasm.”
Also at commencement, the university:
- Granted a posthumous bachelor's degree in organizational management to Cecilia Rittenhouse of Bryan, Ohio. Her son, Joseph, accepted the diploma on behalf of his mother, who died at age 71 on March 24, several weeks before she would have completed her academic program. Prior to commencement, a tree was dedicated in her honor on campus.
- Granted emeritus status to Gregg Luginbuhl, professor of art. Also the art department chair, Luginbuhl is retiring after 30 years at Bluffton and 38 years of college teaching overall. In addition to teaching during that time, he has continued to work as an artist. He has participated in numerous exhibitions and earned many awards for his work, several examples of which can be seen on campus.
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