2017 BGSU Firelands Commencement


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Early May offered torrential rains and little sun for Central Ohio, but Mother Nature cleared the skies on Saturday, May 6, for the Bowling Green State University Firelands College 32nd Commencement Ceremony held on the Huron Campus in the Cedar Point Center.

“This is the culmination of a great deal of hard work and sacrifice for our students and we are proud that they have achieved their goals,” said BGSU Firelands Dean Andy Kurtz. 

The graduating class includes 195 associate degree candidates and 30 bachelor’s degree candidates.  In addition, the College also recognized ten area high school students in the College Credit Plus program who gained enough college credit to earn an associate degree concurrently with their high school diploma.

Degree candidates ranged in age from 17 to 61 and they represent many areas of Ohio.  Forty-five candidates graduated with academic honors, including two students with a perfect 4.0 grade point averages.

More than 400 guests attended the ceremony to help the students celebrate their achievement.  Featured speakers for the evening were student William Sberna and alumnus William MacDonald ’86, ’89, ’92.

The tradition of having a student speaker is one which honors the accomplishments of the graduates and gives voice to the student experience at the College.  The student speaker is nominated and selected by faculty and staff.

Sberna was graduating with a bachelor’s degree in applied health science and also holds two associate degrees from BGSU Firelands.  He is a past officer of Student Government and has been recognized by the University for his research identifying naturally occurring substances which combat antibiotic resistant microbes.

“I am proud to say that BGSU Firelands has shaped my life for the better, it has become more than just a college it has become my home away from home these last four years,” said Sberna during his speech.

Sberna shared with the audience that there had been many small moments at BGSU Firelands that seemed inconsequential at the time, but in hindsight, truly shaped his College experience.

“Joining the tutoring staff of the teaching and learning center, being able to work in the biology lab, and being able to take part in the many clubs on campus like the Science Club, Chess Club, Garden Club, and even Student Government, have helped to define who I am,” said Sberna.

Sberna was followed by the keynote speaker MacDonald, a former BGSU Firelands student and three time graduate of BGSU.

“We are delighted to have Dr. MacDonald as the commencement speaker.  He is an outstanding role model for the graduates and an excellent example of the level of success which can be achieved with an education from BGSU,” said Kurtz.

MacDonald is currently the Executive Dean of Regional Campuses at The Ohio State University where he is responsible for the administrative functions for five campuses and nearly 7,000 students.

MacDonald has published articles in a variety of scholarly journals, received funding from the National Science Foundation to support his research, and was named a 1997-1998 Young Scholar in American Religion by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

He has won several awards including the 2010 I Believe in Ohio State Campus Campaign Leadership Award, the 2000 Robert A. Barnes Award for Exemplary Teaching, a 1999 Templeton Foundation Science and Religion Course Prize, and the 1997 Ohio State Newark Scholarly Accomplishment Award.

He also received the BGSU Accomplished Graduate Award in 2006 and the BGSU Firelands Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2003.

“When I started at Firelands, I had no idea where a college degree could take me. Neither of my parents had attended college, and I had barely any idea what college was all about,” said MacDonald.

He went on to share several memories of his time at Firelands and credited faculty members with helping him gain critical knowledge that has aided him throughout his career.  During the keynote he also referenced pop culture characters such as Harry Potter and Bilbo Baggins from J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”

“Just like the Shire shaped the life of Bilbo Baggins, Firelands has shaped the choices you have made, and has thus helped make you who you are. As your road goes ever onward, you will certainly change, and you will no longer be the human you are at this moment,” said Macdonald.

The Commencement Ceremony was followed by a reception in The Pit of the North Building which allowed graduates an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ to the faculty and friends who helped to shape their lives.

The evening was filled with sunshine and smiles as the graduates ended one chapter of their life and inevitably started a new one.