Oceanographer urges Wilson College grads to effect positive change in world

May 19, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Class of 2013 President Megan Longstreet gave a student address Sunday afternoon at commencement in Chambersburg, Pa.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Wilson College’s Class of 2013 is poised to make a great impact on the natural world because the next 10 years will be key in protecting the planet, the class’ graduation speaker said Sunday.

Sylvia A. Earle said that just last week, the Earth passed a milestone in which carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere passed the 400 parts-per-trillion mark. She also said half the coral reefs are gone, as she witnessed during a dive at the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia this month.

Earle, an oceanographer, urged Wilson College’s graduates to effect positive change in the world.

Ninety-four people received bachelor’s and associate degrees, 14 people received master’s degrees in education and 54 people were awarded teaching certificates during the afternoon ceremony.

Earle described what she called a “sweet spot” in time.

“Never before could you or anyone else on Earth know what is now known,” she said.


Wilson College President Barbara K. Mistick said the Class of 2013 expressed great admiration for Earle, who was the overwhelming favorite choice for graduation speaker. The scientist is a National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence.

Earle has logged more than 7,000 hours underwater and joked she would not add to her log the time spent on the commencement stage Sunday as a light rain fell.

Angella Dagenhart, who delivered the student address on behalf of the adult-degree program, said she worries about the world her children and grandchildren will inherit. Still, she said there are ways to succeed through resilience, resourcefulness and not fearing failure.

Class of 2013 Class President Megan Longstreet provided the student address on behalf of the College for Women. She said she and her classmates might have had a blast and grown while in school, but it is time to move forward.

“It’s our time to usher in new students and make our mark on the world,” she said.

Shonna Partlow, 23, of Pittsburgh, recently ushered someone into the world. She carried her 8-day-old son, James, in a sling as she prepared to walk across the stage for her diploma.

“His due date was four days before graduation, so I didn’t know if I’d be walking,” said Partolow, who hopes to be a veterinary technician.

Partolow said she “made it this far” and did not want to miss graduation, despite weariness associated with having a newborn at home. Also, she said she’d have a good story to tell him one day.

Kimberly Zito’s daughter did not see her graduate with a bachelor’s degree because she had not been born yet. Now 13, the girl urged Zito to participate in the ceremony to receive her certificate from the teacher intern program.

Zito, 41, of York, Pa., said she was happy to set the example for her daughter.

Friend Elizabeth Lancaster echoed that thought.

“I’m excited to walk across the stage and see my husband, kids and smiling family,” said Lancaster, 33, of Chambersburg.

Lancaster, who was enrolled in the adult-degree program, had 17 people in attendance at the college’s 143rd commencement.

Friends Chelsea Krebs and Olivia Hunter attended high school in Beaver Springs, Pa., shared a room at Wilson College and graduated together. Hunter studied equine management and Krebs studied biology.

Hunter and Krebs, both 22, said they enjoyed the atmosphere on the Wilson College campus.

“I liked the small setting,” Krebs said. “The classes are small and the professors know your name.”

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