Like No Other: University of Findlay Commencement 2021
A certain hope was tangible as two graduating classes – 2020 and 2021 – were recognized during Mother’s Day weekend at University of Findlay, and the recently named and soon-to-be alumni in the Koehler Complex were noticeably grateful to have the opportunity.
Findlay Mayor Christina (Terry) Muryn ’14, a Findlay native and UF alumna, spoke on Friday’s commencement to the 2020 graduates, fittingly illustrating how life very rarely moves in one’s expected direction, or, using her chosen metaphor, in a straight line. In fact, the imaginary line she asked the students to draw in their minds from their beginnings to where they were currently sitting had the unique ups and downs of graduating during a pandemic, and Muryn explained that her line was no different. She told the approximately 90 returning graduates of her successes and struggles and the jagged results of her “life line” over the years, including the most recent challenges of leading a city through a pandemic. “But,” she said, “lines move as they grow, and we are drawing our own lines.” No matter the direction, she said, we are in charge of the direction our lives take.
Pastor Ed Brandt, a 1981 graduate of then-Findlay College, kicked the graduate ceremony off the following Saturday morning for the class of 2021. The group of masters and doctorate graduates had their own distinctive perspective on graduate college, having certainly weathered a more “normal” undergraduate career before the trials of the last several months came upon them. Brandt, like Muryn, took the students’ twists and turns and carried them with him through a speech that was both relatable and encouraging, telling stories from his own life’s perspective, and imploring the room and all who were watching to adapt to setbacks and changes in life quickly, prepared with an insatiable hunger for living and a clear focus on others.
Upon his recognition for an honorary UF doctorate, Findlay College graduate and co-chair of the UF Board of Trustees A. R. Charnes ’66, presented his speech for the undergraduate ceremony. Charnes, at times emotional and steadfastly encouraging, spoke of his number one provider of support, his wife of 57 years, Mary Ann, explaining to those in attendance that a support system of family, friends, and colleagues is of top priority in order to have the meaningful life and productive career that UF has helped to prepare them for; but, he added, one can’t have a productive career without a meaningful life, so they would need to be sure to live broadly. “You have to enjoy this beautiful world,” he said, “and it’s up to us to find our blessings and use them for good.”
In perhaps the most representative of a potential return to a pre-pandemic life, after each ceremony, family and friends were able to watch their graduates complete UF’s time-honored tradition of walking through the Griffith Memorial Arch toward Main Street, where, as freshmen, they began their journey by walking under the Arch toward campus and Old Main. It’s fair to say that the world did some changing during the time these graduates spent between their Arch walks. Yet, as Charnes mentioned during his time at the podium, all of them have “shown discipline and resilience and [have] come out stronger, wiser and, ready to lead us all into the new normal.”
The combined graduating classes for 2020 and 2021 numbered 1906 graduates. As they are graduates of University of Findlay, it goes without saying that the lessons they’ve learned from their years of academia, both traditional and otherwise affected by the unexpected curves thrown at them, will keep our future strong.