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"Proclaim Your Story," Walker Cup Recipent Ashton Johnson '15 Tells Classmates as 504 Receive DePauw Diplomas

"Proclaim Your Story," Walker Cup Recipent Ashton Johnson '15 Tells Classmates as 504 Receive DePauw Diplomas

May 17, 2015

Also: Address by Ruth Simmons; Three Receive Honorary Degrees; Photo Gallery; Order Commencement DVD

"Just like the roots of trees in a forest or the seams of a blanket, our stories have been intricately woven and tied together during our time at DePauw," Ashton T. Johnson told fellow members of the University's Class of 2015 at today's 176th commencement. "Your story has been shaped and molded by the interactions, conversations, and time spent with professors, classmates, acquaintances, friends, opponents, adversaries, and even those haters."

As the winner of the Walker Cup, which is awarded to the senior who has contributed the most to the University community during his or her four years on campus, Johnson spoke on behalf of her class. A sociology major and education studies minor, she organized events and discussions on campus to discuss and explore issues related to police, race and the state of America in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and other American cities.

DePauw awarded diplomas to 504 students this morning in ceremonies that were held under cloudy skies in Holton Memorial Quadrangle.  Weather conditions appeared to be touch-and-go before the 10:30 a.m. start, but umbrellas didn't need to be employed during the two hour program.

"Our DePauw story has been shaped by the people in your classes who opened up and shared their personal stories of strengths and vulnerabilities in order to create something truly remarkable: communion. The people living in your dorm, your duplex, or your Greek house shaped your story in redefining the true meaning of home. All of our extracurricular activities, clubs, and community service organizations shaped our DePauw story by teaching us to excel in our efforts of helping others and to exalt the praises of our communities." She added, "Each person you have encountered during these past four years is not only a part of your DePauw story but also a part of your life story."

Johnson continued, "Telling your story assists you on your journey of figuring out who you are. In telling your tale, you are recalling your past and the past of those who came before you. You are reminded that your strengths, weaknesses, triumphs, and failures are all a part of who you are today. By sharing your narrative, you are becoming a part of other people’s stories. You are being intricately connected with and imprinting yourself in the lives and memoirs of people around you. By proclaiming your story, you are declaring that you exist in this world and that your life matters. Since your life is woven into the lives around you, those lives, in turn, matter as well."

Following graduation, Ashton Johnson will serve in the Teach For America corps in New York City.

She concluded, "Your life story, my life story, our life stories are songs of freedom because all we have ever had are redemption songs. To the Class of 2015, I leave you with these final words: tell and share your life story with each person you meet and every place you go, tell it by your words, your actions or just you being you, because your story, your life matters. Get up, Stand up, and sing your songs of freedom because every little thing is going to be all right, you get me?"

Ruth J. Simmons, president emerita of Brown University, also spoke to the Class of 2015 today.  A summary of her remarks will be available soon.

Dr. Simmons, cultural historian Joseph Horowitz, and poet Rodney Jones were awarded honorary doctorates at the ceremony.  Read more in this story.

Graduates and their families who wish to own a high-quality, permanent video of DePauw's 2015 commencement may order a limited edition commemorative DVD. The disc, which is professionally replicated, will include footage of each graduate receiving their DePauw diploma as well as a range of bonus materials.  They will include clips of some of the most memorable moments of the past four years, starting with the arrival of the graduating class on campus in August 2011, and concluding with the May 7, 2015 "topping out" ceremony for Hoover Dining Hall. 

The disc, which is now in production, will also include highlights from Ubben Lecturers who have visited DePauw over the past four years, including Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King III, Jane Goodall, Jimmy Kimmel and Andrew Luck. Orders are now being accepted at $19.95 for the first disc; additional DVDs sent to the same address will be $8 each (7% sales tax will be added to Indiana orders).

An online order form is available here; you can learn more about the disc in this article.

For more information on DePauw's commencement, click here.