By Susan Shinn, Catawba College News Service
Graduates of Alpha Chi honor society paused to remember "what is" and ponder "what will be" in their graduation ceremony Friday in Catawba College's Omwake-Dearborn Chapel.
About 75 students, parents, faculty and staff attended the 30-minute afternoon ceremony, followed by strawberries and cream on the lawn. The event's keynote speaker was Dr. Albert "Robin" Roberts, professor of psychology, who is retiring this spring after 40 years on the faculty.
Roberts intentionally used the word "we" to talk about a this time of transition for him and for the 17 graduates of Alpha Chi, the college's highest academic honor society.
"I suspect we really don't know what's in store for us," Roberts said. "We will experience periods of profound joy, times of sadness, lots of challenges: sets of accomplishments and successes, some disappointments, rejections and dejections, and — hopefully — long streams of happiness and satisfactions."
Roberts admitted that when he was asked to deliver Friday's homily, he really didn't know what a homily was — hence its title: "A Homily?"
Roberts consulted the dictionary and came up with two definitions, the first of which is a sermon.
"A sermon? Me? I think not," Roberts said as his audience chuckled.
The second definition of homily has to do with "a tedious moralizing lecture or admonition."
"A tedious lecture? Me?" Roberts said, again to laughter. "Hold on, I thought, I can handle this one."
Then he remembered the words of a speaker at his own graduation ceremony: "In the future, you probably won't remember anything I say today, but you will remember that I was brief."
Since brevity is the soul of wit, Roberts — known for a wit he serves up very dry — kept his remarks the same.
Roberts shared one of his many maxims: "New times, new realities," referring to how quickly things change.
"Today's 'what is' is yesterday's 'what will be,' " he said. "You not only survived that transition from yesterday to today, you did so admirably and with distinction, as your selection into Alpha Chi testifies."
Remaining students, he said, will find that their coursework thus far will serve as a springboard for a successful senior year.
To seniors, Roberts said that they could use his response when asked about their future plans. "I don't know where I'm going, but I'm heading there with enthusiasm!" he said.
Roberts ended his "non-homily" by congratulating the Alpha Chi members.
"Live a good life," he said. "Oh, and don't forget: I was brief!"
Alpha Chi's graduating seniors are Jacqueline R. Allen, Rebecca Leigh Chinnis, Andrea Elizabeth Clabaugh, Patrick Bryan Dennis, Leslie Michelle Denton, Kyle Brandon Ganow, Grant A. Gibson, Alyssa Lauren Halter, Katherine Virginia Hill, Amber Michelle Hughes, Amanda Adele Lederer, Kali Marina McCullough, Cyle Andrew Petersen, Lara Anne Poplo, Alesha Spring Roseman, Eric Stearns Schemehl, Caitlin Elizabeth Springs. Those seniors stepped forward to light the gold candle of knowledge one last time as their names were called and cameras flashed.
Dr. Edith Bolick and Dr. Barry Sang installed Alpha Chi's officers for next year, Joseph Manser, president; and Sarah Morse, secretary.
The Omicron Chapter of Alpha Chi was founded at Catawba in 1978. To date, 589 members have been inducted. Membership is open to juniors and seniors in the top 10 percent of their classes.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn is a full-time student at Catawba College.
PHOTOS: Alpha Chi Induction (Spring 2010)
Catawba Graduates Set Sights on Their Futures
Alumnus and Three Graduating Seniors Recognized at Commencement
Inspiration and Symbolism Intertwined in Marshal's Walk
"Pass It On," Baccalaureate Speaker Tells Catawba Graduates