BETHANY - A number of 2011 Bethany College graduates plan to return to the hallowed halls to earn their master's degrees. Others will jump right into the working world. Still others are simply undecided about their futures.
Whatever paths the graduates travel, Bethany President Scott D. Miller urged them to "continue to challenge their minds, to nourish the spirit and to dream big."
"Don't be satisfied by mediocre goals," Miller added.
Rain Saturday forced the 171st graduating class to accept its degrees inside the Hummel Fieldhouse, but the weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of the graduates and their families.
Jonathan Wells O'Grady from Littleton, Colo., received plenty of shouts and applause from extended family members who attended Saturday's graduation. The family lineage, which includes Bethany graduates dating back to the 1800s - Absolem Wells as well early 20th century graduate Charles Shelley Wells, Class of 1902, also were the founders of Wellsburg, W.Va. Among the family graduates in attendance Saturday were Donald C. Wells, '43; Shelley Wells O'Grady, '81; Elizabeth Wells Stone, '75; and Alfred C. Wells, '87.
Commencement speaker Robert Nutting, president of Ogden Newspapers Inc. and chairman of the board of the Pittsburgh Pirates, reminded the students of the importance of family and friends as they move out into the working world.
"Our family is proud of our long-standing relationship with Bethany," Nutting said. "One of the first editors of the Wheeling Intelligencer was Archibald Campbell, a graduate of Bethany, Class of 1852, and nephew of Bethany founder Alexander Campbell.
Robert Nutting's great-grandfather H.C. Ogden and, more recently, his father, G. Ogden Nutting, have served Bethany in several capacities.
"You are all extremely fortunate to have been able to attend a great institution with a faculty and administration that is committed to, and focused on, developing and nurturing the whole student," Nutting added.
He observed that many of the jobs the graduates will hold have not yet been conceived and that many will retire from companies that don't even exist today.
"Lean on the lessons learned here at Bethany, the ability to think and to question, the ability to make a tough choice, to persevere on the tougher road and to see it through," Nutting said.
In closing, Nutting told the graduates, "If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have enough room for the things that are important to you. Never forget that the most important thing you have is your time. It is the most precious thing you can share. Value it and use it well.
"And when you need to believe that something of real importance can last forever, think of this place, these buildings and more importantly these people around you today. ... We all need to think that something lasts forever, and it might as well be this place," he added. "I hope for each of you that it is Bethany."
Also during the commencement exercise, Lindsay Ann Sobotka of Weirton was awarded the Francis O. Carfer Prize for Service to the College as the outstanding senior. April Michelle O'Brien of Columbus received the Bethany 2000 Prize for senior achievement.
A Doctor of Divinity honorary degree was conferred on the Rev. Todd A. Adams, associate general minister and vice president and chief of staff for the general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Local graduates include:
Follansbee - Gabriella Pierrie Casinelli.
Weirton - Taylor Anne Morris, Ryan Cole Rokisky, Ashley Elizabeth Simic, Lindsay Ann Sobotka.
Wellsburg -Gary Michael Lees, Erica Dawn Merkel, Kaycee Lou Platter, Christopher Brian Smurthwaite, Ryan Thomas Whitehead.