Xavier conferred 868 undergraduate and 966 graduate degrees in two ceremonies at its174th commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 12. Separate ceremonies were held for undergraduate and graduate degree recipients to accommodate the graduates and their families.
William T. Robinson III, president of the American Bar Association, was the commencement speaker at the undergraduate ceremony. Xavier awarded Robinson an honorary degree in recognition of his contributions to the legal profession and civic causes. Robinson has practiced law for more than 35 years, focusing on commercial litigation, class actions and product liability defense. He is member-in-charge of the Northern Kentucky office of Frost Brown Todd and is wrapping up his one-year term as president of the Bar in August.
Alumnus Benjamin Krause was this year recipient of Xavier’s Magis Award, which recognizes a Xavier alum who embodies Jesuit morals and ethical values. Since Krause graduated in 2003, he has dedicated himself to international humanitarian service, most recently serving as country director for actor Sean Penn’s post-earthquake refugee assistance organization in Haiti. Prior service work included time in Africa and, as an undergraduate student at Xavier, trips to Central America. His dedication and work ethic earned him the Francis J. Finn, S.J., award his senior year at Xavier.
Xavier’s Distinguished Alumnus Award this year went to Thomas H. Siemers, retired chairman, president and CEO of First Franklin Corporation and its subsidiary, Franklin Savings. Siemers joined Franklin Savings in 1948 and became its president in 1968. Now retired, Siemers was recognized for his outstanding service to the University and society, and his commitment to Jesuit values.
This year’s John A. Elet, S.J., Scholar award, which recognizes a student for academic excellence and service, was given to Ashley Freeland, 22, of Loveland, Ohio. Freeland graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and minors in gender and diversity studies and peace studies.
David T. Hellkamp, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, was the commencement speaker at the afternoon ceremony for graduate students. He and his wife, retired Xavier administrator Susan Wideman, both received the Paul L. O’Connor Leadership Award at the morning undergraduate ceremony. During his 44 years on the faculty at Xavier, Hellkamp, a clinical psychologist in private practice, helped develop and expand the University’s psychology program including founding of the doctoral program in psychology. His consulting work took him to the Balkans following the collapse of the Soviet Union as a consultant for the Jesuit schools in Lithuania, where he helped revive the school in Kaunas from 1996 through 2001.
Susan Wideman was recognized for her longtime work helping non-traditional undergraduate students earn their degrees. During her 26 years at Xavier, she led the development of the Center for Adult and Part-Time Students and the University’s Weekend Degree Program and the expansion of the summer session. As one of the few female administrators on campus in the 1980s, Wideman understood the needs of non-traditional undergraduate students, the majority of whom were women, and made sure to provide students personal attention and a lower cost-per-credit hour. She also served as academic adviser to more than 9,000 students.
This year’s commencement included the first class of students with a major in environmental science. The program was first offered in the fall semester of 2010, and a number of biology students switched to the new major, with 10 earning the degree this year. The major offers students who are interested in biology but not medicine an alternative. Students focus on the impact of human systems and the natural environment on each other.
The commencement ceremonies also highlighted seven Golden Grads who celebrated the 50th anniversary of their graduation in 1962. They included Robert G. Meyer, PhD, of Louisville, Ky., Bruce Alan Barton of Villa Hills, Ky., Fred Haas of Eastlake, Ohio, C. Herbert Schmidt of Hamilton, Ohio, K. Richard Isfort of Cincinnati, David Hellkamp and Stan Vollman of Cincinnati.
New this year was live streaming of both ceremonies, allowing relatives and friends who couldn't attend to watch online. The Twitter hashtag #xugrad12 was used to share photos, videos and messages to be displayed on the commencement website.