SPECIAL TO THE LOG CABIN
After four years of studying and student life, 329 Hendrix College students said farewell to their alma mater at the 128th Commencement on Saturday.
"They join a distinguished group of individuals who - in many different ways - have been making the world a better place for 136 years," said Hendrix President Dr. J. Timothy Cloyd. "Today’s graduates will leave here armed with knowledge and skills acquired through their hard work, under the guidance of a demanding yet supportive faculty. They will leave here with memories and friends that will last a lifetime."
President Cloyd reminded the Class of 2012 that, in a sense, they will never leave Hendrix.
"Your accomplishments here will be recorded and remembered," said Cloyd, referencing student leaders of Campus Kitty and TEDxHendrixCollege, and other student accomplishments, including Fulbright and Watson Scholarship recipients and Phi Beta Kappa inductees. "Many of you have made contributions to the life of the College that will continue to influence the lives of Hendrix students for years to come."
Eight members of the Class of 2012 will teach in underserved communities from New York City to Hawaii and the Louisiana Delta to Chicago, and seven graduates were called to ministry, Cloyd said.
The Class of 2012 includes the second group of Rwanda Presidential Scholars to earn undergraduate degrees at Hendrix under the Rwanda President Scholars initiative administered in partnership with the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Celebrating the Rwandan graduates was Justine Mbabazi Niyibizi, the First Counselor of the Embassy of Rwanda in Washington, D.C. and previously a researcher with the Center for Conflict Management at the National University of Rwanda, where she also served as the coordinator of the Master’s Program on Genocide and Prevention Studies.
Hendrix alumnus Doug Blackmon, a 1986 graduate, gave the commencement address.
Blackmon reflected briefly on his time as a Hendrix student, where he admitted that, as editor of the student newspaper, the administration was likely pleased to see him graduate after he led an effort to have the College reevaluate its endowment investments in South Africa during the Apartheid era.
The movement, which he described as an "early Occupy Conway," caused quite a stir, but the administration did alter its investment strategies, he said.
Blackmon received the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for this book "Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II." He is the executive producer of a documentary, directed by Sam Pollard, based on the book. The documentary premiered this spring at Sundance Film Festival and was shown on PBS in February.
Blackmon praised the Rwanda President Scholars program as an example of American exceptionalism, the theme of his address.
"I see American exceptionalism in our ability to see our blemishes and work to heal them," he said.
Blackmon is a former editor and reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Arkansas Democrat, and Daily Record.
He recently accepted a position at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, where he will chair of the university’s Forum Program. In March, he became a contributing editor for the Washington Post, focusing on national coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign. He is a 2009 recipient of the Hendrix Odyssey Medal, the highest alumni honor bestowed on graduates whose personal and professional lives exemplify the values of engaged liberal arts and sciences education.
"America has a duty and mission to spread democracy and liberty and an obligation to do so," he said, recalling how, as a journalist, he covered international issues, including the fall of the Berlin Wall.
"Take the leap and be the exception," he concluded.