Ohio State tapped one of its own to speak for the main address at commencement this year. At Sunday’s 2016 Autumn Commencement, Timothy Gerber, a professor in the School of Music, drew on pop music references and his more than 30 years teaching at OSU to encourage the 3,663 new alumni to make the world a better place.
He provided examples of music being able to help Alzheimer’s patients with their memory, and serve as a unifying rallying call for the civil rights movement.
“Because of its enormous power, we often rely on music to make this world a better place,” Gerber said.
While much of the speech was a call to action, some of it was more lighthearted.
“As Ohio State graduates, each of you have succeeded in meeting one of society’s most coveted milestones: the right to rent a cap and gown for $40,” Gerber said.
“Every time you see this octagonal Block ‘O,’ think of it as a building block, your personal reminder to get involved, contribute your Buckeye expertise to making this world a better place.” — Timothy Gerber, professor, School of Music
To symbolize his themes of listening and community he discussed in his commencement address, he took off his mortar board and donned his “old school, Buckeye Block ‘O’ Woody cap.”
“Every time you see this octagonal Block ‘O,’ think of it as a building block, your personal reminder to get involved, contribute your Buckeye expertise to making this world a better place,” he said.
The word Gerber used to define the commencement ceremony was “love,” and he concluded his speech with a modified line from “Carmen Ohio.”
“With love in our hearts, standing on our own personal Block ‘O,’ we can all experience with great joy that rebounding thrill, which death alone can still,” he said.
Following Gerber’s speech, University President Michael Drake addressed the graduating class. He gave advice to graduates that he once told a student he would have given to his 19-year-old self.
“Take the time to breathe, the time to engage, the time to be thankful, the time to appreciate the people around you, the time to slow down, momentarily at least, and breathe again,” he said.
Gerber and Drake both discussed the significance of the life of former senator and astronaut John Glenn, who died earlier this month at age 95. A ceremony was held for the Ohio native at the Mershon Auditorium on Saturday.
“We had in Sen. Glenn, someone who had achieved at the very highest level possible in the circumstance of life, there was arguably no more successful person on the Earth,” he said. “But those lucky enough to know him also knew that he was as compassionate and genuine and loving a person as we’d ever known.”
There were two recipients of special honors, professor Robert Parris Moses and Gary E. Booth.
Moses, a long acting civil rights advocate who has degrees from Hamilton College and Harvard University, received an honorary Doctor of Science. Booth, who earned a master’s degree in chemistry at OSU in the 1960s and helped develop Pantene, Crest and Folgers Coffee, earned the distinguished service award.
Nicholas Papa, who received his degree in mechanical engineering, said he was relieved to be done with college.
“I’m very happy that it’s over, it’s been a long four and a half years but it’s been worth it. It’s been fun, but I’m happy to be done with it now,” he said.
However, Papa also said there were several things he would miss about being at OSU.
“It’s a very close community, and college is a great time to have all of your friends really close together,” he said. “Campus feels great: coming to school every day, meeting new friends, learning new things.”