Search committee narrows commencement speaker to three options

Search committee narrows commencement speaker to three options

by Emily SchettlerStaff Writer

Three finalists have been chosen among a pool of candidates to speak at the commencement ceremony May 19.

A search committee has referred three people to President John Byrd as possible speakers for the graduation ceremony. In the coming weeks, Byrd will contact the three candidates about their interest and availability and decide who to invite to campus.

Members of the committee declined to release the names of the candidates but believe students will be pleased with their choice.

“Out of the three names we got, whomever the president chooses will give a very motivating speech,” said senior Evan Schaefer, senior class president and member of the search committee.

Schaefer and other members of the committee worked hard to find a speaker students would have a real interest in.

“We started last semester thinking of big names we’d like to see on campus,” said senior Eric Adams, student body president. “We looked at less prominent people too. We really want someone with a good message.”

The committee made of students, faculty and administrators worked together, talking with students to get a feel for who they would like to hear. Schaefer said suggestions ranged from professors and authors to movie directors and alumni.

Committee members talked with agents and sent out formal letters to several nationally known people. Two people most requested by students were Jon Stewart and Oprah Winfrey.

“We drafted and sent them letters,” Schaefer said. “We knew it was a shot in the dark, but we thought we might as well try.”

Both Stewart and Winfrey politely declined the offers.

Chris Goodale, senior advancement officer and an administrator on the committee, said the decision was a collaborative effort. Students talked with classmates, and the committee searched alumni databases.

“We wanted to make sure the speaker would be appropriate and welcomed by the senior class,” Goodale said.

The committee looked for someone with great lifetime achievements and a good message. The members decided early they would not be selecting a politician.

“While famous people ask for a lot of money, politicians don’t,” Schaefer said. “We wanted to get the best possible speaker at a price we could afford.”

The committee members were hoping to find someone who could make a lasting impression.

“We did want to find someone people are familiar with,” Adams said. “It was also important to get someone who would talk about future-oriented goals. Our education doesn’t stop here.”

This was the first year that such a committee was used in selecting a commencement speaker. Previously, the president had made the decision independently.

Schaefer thought incorporating a search committee into the decision was an excellent way of assuring the speaker would be someone students would enjoy. It also allowed students and faculty to work together and put everyone on the same page.

“The committee is great because it incorporates the student body, not just a couple of people,” Adams said. “Also, we can make a list of who we’d like to see and create a consistency from year to year.”

Goodale was excited to be part of the process and hopes to see it continue in years to come.

“When I was the class president in 1985, the president just informed me of who the speaker would be,” Goodale said. “It has been nice to have students involved in determining the commencement speaker.”

The committee hopes have the speaker scheduled by April 1.