By: Ben Anderson
Plenty of sunshine and plenty of graduates – 180, a record number – marked the 2008 Warren Wilson College Commencement on May 17.
The large crowd stretching beyond Sunderland Lawn heard a main address by Steve Curwood, host and executive producer of public radio’s "Living on Earth." Not surprisingly considering his environmental news background, Curwood noted the perils facing the Earth in an address titled, "Be Brave – It’s a New World."
Curwood said that the number of problems currently besetting the planet is unprecedented, except for the threat posed by nuclear bombs with the Cuban missile crisis.
"But what happened then?" he asked. "Humanity found the better side of itself."
Examples such as that provide hope that our environmental challenges can be met, Curwood said.
"The Berlin Wall came down," he said. "We ended slavery. Women gained the right to vote." Our environmental problems can be solved, he told the graduates, "But here’s the hitch: YOU have to do it.
"Summon your courage," Curwood urged. "Ask for help. And know that you have a God behind you."
His advice was appropriate for a class that finished with more than 20 percent of its graduates majoring in environmental studies. They now leave Warren Wilson to work in jobs ranging from environmental education in the Adirondacks to restoring native grasslands in Washington state. Others are taking time off for outdoor adventures such as hiking the Appalachian Trail and snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas.
Curwood’s remarks followed those of senior class speaker Patrick Addabbo of Edgewater, Md., who recalled the Class of 2008 enrolling just in time for the floods of 2004, "when we watched the pigs swimming" on the college farm. He said his classmates are what he loves most about Warren Wilson, calling them, "My friends, my family."
The commencement followed an Honors and Awards ceremony Friday evening at which seniors Ryan Morra and Nathan Ballentine received the top student awards. Morra, a biology and environmental studies major from Fairfield, Conn., won the Alton F. Pfaff Award, which goes to the graduating senior who most clearly exemplifies qualities of the ideal student. Ballentine, an integrative studies major from Tallahassee, Fla., received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, presented to a graduating senior in recognition of spiritual qualities applied to daily living.
Teaching Excellence awards went to Outdoor Leadership/Environmental Studies Professor Mallory McDuff (faculty) and to BK Segall (staff), circulation services and library crew manager.
To view an Asheville Citizen-Times photo gallery of commencement, click here.