Beloit College Magazine

Beloit College Magazine

Summer 2010 (July 21, 2010)

Make Us Proud, Class of 2010

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July 21, 2010
By Susan Kasten
And those five-year plans? Write them in pencil.


Surrounded by an enthusiastic crowd of about 2,500 people on the Middle College lawn, the 304 members of the Beloit College class of 2010 were celebrated with a bubble-blowing extravaganza and encouraged by the college president to sit back one last time, breathe Beloit in, and bask like turtles in the sun.

A contingent of Secret Service agents, on hand for Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient David Axelrod, struck a sober note in the otherwise uplifting 160th Beloit College Commencement ceremony.

“It was quirky in a way that only Beloit can be,” says Tamara Fouche’10 of the ceremony. She cites as an example her fellow graduates, some wearing heels that sank into the soft lawn and others in bare feet, distributing neon containers of bubble solution at the behest of alumni speaker Jamey Brumfield’92. The president of the Beloit College Alumni Association orchestrated a collective bubble-blowing effort as part of her salute to graduates.

The Commencement speech by David Axelrod, senior advisor to President Barack Obama and father of Michael Axelrod’05, offered insights for parents and graduates alike. Having been on the other side of the stage only a few years earlier, Axelrod spoke about the range of emotions he felt as his son’s Commencement came to an end and the family drove away from Beloit, the campus receding in the rearview mirror.

David Axelrod Doctorate“I sat here with moist eyes five years ago when my son, Michael, became a Beloit graduate, and just for the record, I also sobbed four years earlier when I dropped him off at Beloit for the first time,” he said. “I’m supposed to be a hard-bitten political warrior, so please keep my confessions to yourself.”

Fouche, one of the 2010 senior class officers, says student efforts to bring Axelrod to Beloit spanned several years.

“I’m so glad he came for our graduation because our class was really in the middle of the presidential election,” she says. “Plus, I think he gave us very good advice.”

Drawing on his own experience, first as a journalist, then as a political advisor, Axelrod urged students to find meaningful work, be open to change, and make priorities of family, friends, and the greater good.

“ … Seek the things that will fill your heart and soul and not just your bank account,” he told them.

He also counseled students to take some calculated risks, even as they receive advice to do the opposite. “Embrace the glorious fact that as you march out of here today and into the future, you are as mobile and unfettered and as free as you’ll ever be to try things out, to find your passion, to chase your dreams,” he said. “Don’t even try to plot out where you’ll be in 30 years because there’s no way to know. … I’m not suggesting that you don’t write out those five-year plans like you’re told to, I’m just suggesting you do it pencil.”

Graduation 2010 Bubbles Evan OrmanFirsts

For Scott Bierman, Beloit’s 11th president, the 2010 Commencement marked an important milestone as his first-ever graduation ceremony at Beloit. To celebrate the occasion, Bierman gave students a wry and funny speech, peppered with advice, observations, and a directive to revel in the significance of their last four years.

“Let this school wash over you,” he urged graduates. “Soak it in, remind yourself of what each place in front of you and each person around you has meant to you.”

Led by their class officers, the class of 2010 and their families made a record-breaking $28,545 gift to Beloit, with 64 percent of the class participating. At one point, when their contribution edged close to being the largest gift ever given by a graduating class at Beloit, Bierman and his wife, Melody, announced they would put it over the top with their own personal gift of $2,000.

The Biermans announced the gift at the senior gala, also a first on the senior-week social calendar. The event was organized and hosted by graduates to show their appreciation for Beloit College faculty and staff, who were their guests of honor.


The Martha Peterson Prize and the Blue Skies Award, presented at Commence­ment, respectively highlight a graduate who exemplifies the best of the liberal arts and another who has brought good cheer to everyday life on campus.

Josh Davendonis, an ecology, evolution, and behavioral biology major from Highland, Ill., was awarded the Peterson Prize, named for Beloit’s seventh president. A scholar-athlete, Davendonis graduated magna cum laude with departmental honors in biology, excelled in Asian studies, and served as captain of the track and cross-country teams.

Eric Dunford, a political science major and English and journalism minor from Hailey, Idaho, received the Blue Skies Award and later returned to the stage to deliver the class address.

Three students graduated with the highest scholastic standing in their respective degree programs. Jennifer Connelly, a literary studies major from Green Bay, Wis., and Katharine Singleton, an anthropology major and geology minor from Portland, Ore., tied for the top academic record among Bachelor of Arts degree recipients. Theresa Lamb, a biochemistry major from Milton, Wis., took the top honor among the Bachelor of Science degree recipients.

During Commencement, Beloit College confers honorary degrees on select individuals whose achievements are extraordinary. David Axelrod and Judith Miller’72 each received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees during the 2010 event.

David Axelrod was cited for “believing in the power of the political realm and of the people to change the world for the better.” In addition to serving as senior strategist for the Obama-Biden presidential campaign and now senior advisor to the president of the United States, the former Chicago Tribune reporter and columnist earlier served as campaign manager for the late Illinois Senator Paul Simon, advised Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, and founded Chicago-based AKPD Message and Media. He and his wife, Susan Landau, have been active in charitable work, supporting the Special Olympics and Misericordia of Chicago. The couple established a family foundation, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, which has raised millions for research aimed at finding a cure.

Make Us Proud, Class of 2010 (Bierman and Miller)Judith Miller’72, a Beloit College trustee since 1978, was honored as “a dedicated public servant, celebrated litigator, and trusted advisor to Beloit College.” Beyond her dedication to the college, she has had a distinguished career practicing law, and received a number of major honors for her service as general counsel for the U.S. Department of Defense. She recently retired as senior vice president, general counsel, and trustee for the Bechtel Group.

Professor of English John Rosenwald and Professor of Theatre Arts Rod Umlas received emeriti status at Commencement. 

John Rosenwald and Ann ArborRosenwald, who joined Beloit in 1976 and retired from teaching in December, was noted for his absolute dedication to students, his early morning hours, and his stewardship of the esteemed Beloit Poetry Journal. He was also recognized for bringing a who’s who of performing artists, poets, and musicians to Beloit during his career. A translator of German and Chinese poetry, scholar of Victorian literature and culture, and widely published poet himself, Rosenwald will continue to co-edit the Beloit Poetry Journal from his home in Farmington, Maine.

Make Us Proud, Class of 2010 (Williams, Umlas, and Brumfield)Rod Umlas, who came to Beloit in 1987 to chair the theatre department, was celebrated for raising that department’s standards to new heights, both in the quality of student performances and the choice of plays presented under his leadership. “We feel certain that his upcoming roles will be played with the kind of thoughtfulness, precision, and grace we have come to expect in his work at Beloit these past 23 years,” his colleague Jack Street, Harry C. Moore Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures, said from the Commencement stage.

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