2000 Commencement Exercises

Commencement 2000

Davidson Honors Its Class of 2000
in Commencement Ceremonies

Davidson College graduated 403 members in its Class of 2000 at Commencement on Sunday morning, May 21. More than 4,000 family members and friends attended the event, which was forced by early morning drizzle indoors into John Belk Arena for only the second time in the last two decades.

ROTC Commisioning

Commencement weekend activities began on Saturday with ROTC Commissioning and the Baccalaureate ceremony. Davidson's ROTC commissioned six seniors into various branches of the military- (l-r) Darisse Bowden, Pat Burchett, David Kaufman, Sara Rothermel, Dan Wingate, and Kurt Yusi.
Kurt Yusi's bars are pinned on by his grandfather, L.W. Brummmer, and mother, Janet Yusi.

Yusi received the "Distinguished Military Graduate" award. The honor of pinning on his lieutenant's bars went to his grandfather, L.W. Brummmer, a WWII veteran of the Philippines campaign, and his mother, Janet Yusi.

The commissioning address was delivered by Col. David Kaufman, social science department chair of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and father of graduate David Kaufman. Col. Kaufman, who received a Ph.D. from M.I.T. and won a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam, said that the guardians of our society must be both warriors and philosophers. He said that while the size of the military will always rightfully be a matter of debate, the country needs soldiers now as much as ever. He noted with pride that U.S. soldiers are viewed around the world as symbols of hope, rather than repression, and urged the new lieutenants to focus on the principles of officership-duty, honor, loyalty to the chain of command up and down, competence, teamwork, leadership by example, and subordination to civilian authority.

He then joined his father, retired Lt. Col. Alkie Kaufman, in pinning bars on his son, David.

Events concluded outside, where Sara Rothermel and others received their ceremonial first salutes, and posed for pictures with their families.

The Herculean efforts of the college's physical plant workers again helped Davidson host multitudes comfortably throughout the weekend. More than 300 tables were set up Saturday afternoon under the oaks on front campus for the President's Supper following Baccalaureate. (l-r) Rico Brandon and Hazel Martin unloaded a mountain of rented chairs, which others set around tables for the feast.

With almost 1,000 balloons sculpted into arches and towers by (l-r) Kim Norville and Kelly Earley from All Occasions Balloons, the area under the oaks was made festive for diners.


The crowd got its first look at the graduates as they exited Chambers for the Baccalaureate service in Davidson College Presbyterian Church at 4 p.m. on Saturday. There were smiles all around from graduates Sakeitha Crowder, Christian Hunt and Ann Culp, and Ainsley Hines, and proud parents snapped pictures as they passed in review.
Christian Hunt and Ann Culp on their way to Baccalaureate.

The crowd outside, and inside Davidson College Presbyterian Church heard the sermon, entitled "On Writing Your Own Obituary," delivered by Rev. H. Edwin Pickard, a 1944 Davidson alumnus and college trustee who has served in Presbyterian ministry for 54 years. "For what would you like to be remembered when that time comes for you?" he asked graduates, including former SGA president Foster Haselden.

He concluded, "What I have come up with for myself is this: 'I want to make my life count all that it can, for as long as it can, in the service of God, and in ministry to others.' Maybe that isn't a bad motto to suggest to you of the Class of 2000 as you work on writing your obituary, as you think of what you would like your life-record to say."

Saturday Evening

At the conclusion of Baccalaureate, the dining services staff was ready with supper. Visitors like Bill Penhallegon, brother of Doug '00, especially appreciated the Ben & Jerry's ice cream bars for dessert!
M. Shell
Graduate Mary Shell Brosche gathers with her family on the porch of Phi Hall.

As the evening lengthened, families enjoyed their special time together. Elizabeth Bufkin tried on the mortarboard of graduating senior son Sebastian Sobczak, who had been studying off campus at Columbia University for the past two years to complete Davidson's 3-2 engineering program. Sebastian finished number one in his Columbia class, and earned a chemistry degree cum laude from Davidson.

Another set of proud parents were Zia and Pat Khan from Philadelphia, on hand to see their son, Tarik, in his finest hour.

Supper was followed by a candlelight promenade around the college's historic buildings, including Phi Hall and Eu Hall. Phi Hall's magnificent chandelier made a lovely backdrop for a family portrait of Mary Shell Brosche '00 and her young cousins, Morgan and "T.," grandmother Sadie, and parents Rick and Pati. Matt Pfeiffer '00 exchanged greetings with new acquaintances, while another family group enjoyed the gathering dusk in front of Elm Row.

Another popular stop on the candlelight promenande was the President's House, where Ruth Anne Vagt greeted visitors and President Bobby Vagt met parents of the "1,600 bolts of lightning" he is proud to serve.

The promenade was merely precursor to a full evening of entertainment. Raymond Sprague, director of Davidson's choral program, led the choirs in a concert in DCPC.
Saturday evening featured choral performances in DCPC.

Academic departments then hosted receptions around campus for their graduating majors. At the history department gathering, Professor Earl Edmondson greeted the Davis family. They included Sarah Davis '00 and her sister, Emily '96, who received her M.D. within the past week. Professor Robin Barnes then announced winners of the department's awards for best papers in History 480, the senior seminar. The winners were Dusten Edge for a paper on bluegrass singer and activist Hazel Dickens, Beth Moore for a paper on Joseph Sievers, a missionary to antebellum slaves, and Will Thompson (posed here with his mother Cindy, father Jeff, and grandfather Stan Munro). Will wrote a paper entitled "Davidson College and the Lost Cause," which examined the legacy of the Civil War at the college in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The evening finally wound down with a concert in the 900 Room by the Davidson Jazz Ensemble. Director Bill Lawing and Rhodes Scholar Christian Hunt '00 traded licks on their horns, and the ensemble kept the room swinging 'till it was time for bed-for most parents, at least!

Sunday Morning

An historic graduation: This has only been the third time in 3 decades that Graduation Exercises have been held indoors.

When the dawn brought leaden skies and a steady drizzle, Registrar Hansford Epes and Faculty Secretary Malcolm Partin hastily posted notices in Chambers announcing the decision to abandon the outdoor Commencement setting. The graduating Bonner Scholars gathered for a final Class of 2000 portrait, and the college family made its way to Baker Sports Center.

Physical plant personnel had already begun setting up outdoors, and the switch to the rain plan meant everyone had to move quickly. (l-r) Robert Brandon and Andrew Christie made sure the most important things of all-the diplomas-didn't get left behind!

It was a challenge to organize graduates by name and degree in the close confines of Baker's wrestling room and dance studio. There wasn't room for chairs, so Patrick Daymond and Aaliyah El-Amin settled on the floor while awaiting instructions.


President Bobby Vagt addresses the Class of 2000

Class President Bill Stoops carried the standard and led the procession of graduates through the vanguard of faculty in John Belk Arena. Faculty and administrators, like Dean of Students Tom Shandley and Chaplain Rob Spach, had a final chance for a quick word with passing seniors, while parents watched from the bleachers for their favorite graduates.

Britta Toleman delivered the invocation, and Professor Rosemary Zumwalt bid the class adieu on behalf of the faculty.

Davidson President Robert Vagt assured members of the class that their Davidson degree would help them do well in life, but urged them to "get off the main road" and seek out "human need that begs human kindness."

He warned them that material success will present a powerful enticement to a life of comfort, and commanded that they not let its Siren sound overwhelm their ability to address the pressing issues.

Top Honors

Receiving "First Honors" in the class for the highest academic average was James H. Nolen, (r) a physics major from Houston, Tex, and second Honors went to James W. "Will" White III (l), a biology major from Jackson, Miss. Both received the bachelor of science degree magna cum laude.

Nolen was named last winter by Computing in Science and Engineering magazine as one of three winners in its 1999 worldwide software contest. Under the leadership of physics professor Wolfgang Christian, Nolen wrote software that models the behavior of gasses inside containers, and is useful in understanding the relationship between pressure, volume, and temperature. Nolen held a merit-based Francis B. Kemp Scholarship, a National Merit Scholarship, Kenneth S. Crews Scholarship, and Samuel H. Bell Scholarship. He was president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and did volunteer work tutoring local school children. He was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa national academic honor society, and received the college's physics award at the recent Spring Convocation.

White recently received a rare graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation, which he will use for three years of study of marine ecology. He developed his interest in marine life during two weeks study of the enrolled in the School for Field Studies. He also conducted research at Davidson on the environmental affects of species interaction, and did a project with Patricia Peroni, associate professor of biology, on the effect of dormant white campion seed banks on population dynamics and germination.

White held the W. Olin Puckett Honor Scholarship at Davidson. He was president of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and captain of the College Bowl team for a year.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

The college presented Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards for community service to Elizabeth A. Clasen, a graduating senior from Kingsport, Tenn., and to Davidson residents Ralph and Wendell Gable.
Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award Winner, Elizabeth Clasen '00.

Ralph Gable taught chemistry at the college for 34 years before retiring in 1994. He and Wendell have long championed civil rights in town, organizing and operating a teen center for African American youth during the 1960s. More recently they were founding members of Common Ground, a local group that strives for racial and economic reconciliation. They have also been prime movers in renovation and organization of the former Ada Jenkins School into a community center. They were cited as "mechanics who keep the machinery running," and praised for their "consistent, profound, and meaningful service that breaks down walls that divide us along racial and economic lines."

Clasen was cited as someone "educated, compassionate, committed, broad thinking and humble." She initiated the campus Room in the Inn program to offer shelter to homeless people, and also worked at the Open Door Community homeless shelter in Atlanta. Clasen was an advocate of the poor and disenfranchised everywhere, traveling to work with women and children in a squatter village in the Philippines, and to Jamaica to assist banana plantation workers there. She led Davidson students to Washington, D.C., to participate in Jubilee March 2000, an effort to promote forgiveness of debts owed by poor countries. She spearheaded efforts on campus focussing on race relations, culminating in a panel that examined the Mecklenburg County School reassignment controversy. She led the Chapel Committee, and co-leads a campus Bible study group.

Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Awards

The college presented its annual Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Awards to (l-r) Gail M. Gibson, Kenan Professor of English and Humanities, and Sally G. McMillen, professor of history. Each award includes a $15,000 prize $7,500 for the individual, and $7,500 more that the recipient designates to a college department or program.

McMillen, a scholar of Southern women, Southern motherhood, and Southern Sunday schools, was praised for "nurturing student spirits, feeding their bodies, and taking them on the school's most successful field trips."

She requires students to meet with her frequently to discuss papers, sympathetically talks with them about their academic and career goals, and passes out home-made chocolate chip cookies to encourage them on exam days.
Gibson and Mcmillen
(l) Professors Gail M. Gibson and (r) Sally G. McMillen, Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award Winners.

She was also praised for working inside the college for ethnic diversity and gender equity, and for building community without shrinking from debate, for pushing students beyond their comfort level, and for caring more than we have a right to expect. . . " A graduate of Wellesley College who received her Ph.D. at Duke, McMillen joined the Davidson faculty in 1988 and is coordinator of the academic program in Southern Studies.

She has written two books: Southern Women: Black and White in the Old South (1991) and Motherhood in the Old South (1990).

Gibson, a specialist in medieval English literature, has received recognition for outstanding teaching on three previous occasions. She was named N.C. Professor of the Year by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education in 1987, was named Omicron Delta Kappa Teacher of the Year in 1992, and won the college's Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award in 1994. She was cited for making her subjects come alive with initiatives such as staging a medieval feast for her students studying Chaucer. "Students take her courses because she makes everything she talks about fascinating, immediate, and compelling," the citation noted.

A magna cum laude graduate of Duke University, Gibson earned her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and has been teaching at Davidson since 1985. She has written two books. The Religion and Arts of Childbed, is an interdisciplinary study of late-medieval religious dramas, rituals, and art that include images of pregnant and childbearing bodies. The Theatre of Devotion concerns East Anglian drama and society in the late middle ages.

The most long-distanced traveler to Commencement this year was Anait Arutyunova of Moscow, who came to see the graduation of her daughter, Yevgenia Arutyuyan. "Zhenya" enjoyed an outstanding academic career at Davidson, earning election to both the Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies, as well as the Delta Phi Alpha German language honor society. She was also a campus leader as president of Davidson's International Students Association, and co-chair of the Dean Rusk Program in International Studies Student Advisory Committee. In the fall she will become a teacher of world history to ninth graders at Charlotte Country Day School. Her long-term ambition is to found a school in Russia and become its principal.

The most popular major for graduates in the Class of 2000 was biology (58 students). Other popular majors among the 21 majors Davidson offers were history (51), English (44), political science (42), psychology (42), and economics (30).


  • 8,500 Signatures Later: Professor Malcolm Partin Retires as Scriba after 28 years.

  • Baccalaureate Address: H. Edwin Pickard '44.

  • Alumni Legacy Breakfast: Remarks from Michael Gillespie '00.

  • ROTC Commissioning Address: Col. David Kaufman.

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