The largest graduating class in Southwestern history, 357 students received their diplomas, with another 42 graduating in absentia. This class has been making history since its arrival, as the largest entering class in Southwestern history, and with it came the first Pirate football season in over 60 years and a new University president! During the past four years, the class joined the student body in participating in collaborative research at record numbers, and watched the groundbreaking, construction and dedication of Phase I of the Fondren Jones Science Center. The students have left their mark on campus literally (in the Cullen Tower) and figuratively.

During Commencement Convocation, members of the Student Philanthropy Council proudly announced another first. Members of the Class of 2017 and their family members collectively endowed the Class of 2017 Scholarship Fund, the first class to endow a scholarship by the time of graduation. The endowed scholarship will be awarded in perpetuity beginning in the fall of 2018, and will grow as additional gifts are made over the years. In total, the graduates and their families gave $74,391.47 to Southwestern this year alone. The legacy of the Class of 2017 will live on at Southwestern, enhancing the lives of students for years to come.

Speakers at Commencement Convocation included two graduates, Xueyu “Derek” Su and Michelle Hershberger. Su, who was elected to speak by the Class of 2017, spoke about “Our Southwestern Journey,” highlighting his own journey from China, as well as the way Southwestern encourages students to embrace the uncertainties in life. Hershberger, who was elected by her peers in the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, spoke about “Pizza Paideia: Delivering the Liberal Arts Education,” highlighting the brief but meaningful time students spend at Southwestern, in particular with their professors. For those who are curious, in her analogy the students are the pizza and the professors are those who deliver them to post-graduate life. The Commencement Address was given by Earl Lewis, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and was titled “The Value of a Liberal Arts Education.” He spoke about the evolving world of work, one in which technology may be the most devastating cause of unemployment. He encouraged graduates to be pioneers in our world, making change responsibly.

The graduates of the Class of 2017 were joined by two honorary members. Earl Lewis and Jim Walzel received honorary degrees from the University for their professional accomplishments and support of Southwestern. Walzel is a Southwestern parent and grandparent, and was a member of the Board of Trustees for 22 years also serving as the Board Chair from 2000-2006.

As Derek Su said in his speech, Commencement was much like move-in day back in 2013, “beautiful, chaotic, and a little bit sweaty.” We look forward to welcoming the Class of 2017 to Alumni Association activities in cities across the nation, and back to campus for Homecoming 2017. As we encounter our new graduates, let’s provide congratulations for all that they have accomplished and encouragement through a new and exciting time in their lives.

Watch the 2017 Commencement Convocation Ceremony.

View photos from Commencement.

View photos from the Phi Beta Kappa Induction Ceremony.