Photo Caption: Aurora Held, right, and her sister Kitri Held, both graduates of OU’s University College, hug their mother, Joy Held, outside the Convocation Center after the morning undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday.
Ohio University Saturday bid farewell to the Class of 2012 during its 258th undergraduate commencement exercises. They got a rollicking send-off with a light commencement address from "the Voice of Bart Simpson" Nancy Cartwright, an undergraduate at OU from 1976-78 before transferring to UCLA.
More than 3,000 graduates took part in separate morning and afternoon ceremonies, mortarboards decorated with glittering spirals, national flags, animal prints and even the heartfelt sentiment, "OU: It isn't four years; it's for life."
Graduates of the College of Business, College of Fine Arts, Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology, Regional Higher Education, Scripps College of Communication and University College took part in the 9:30 a.m. ceremony. Those earning degrees from the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health Sciences and Professions, Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education and Human Services, and the Honors Tutorial College marched into the Convocation Center at 2 p.m.
In addition to the traditional music selections – "Pomp and Circumstance," "Alma Mater, Ohio" and the National Anthem – "The Simpsons" theme song made its way into this year's program, rolling out the red carpet for commencement speaker Cartwright, an Emmy award-winning actress and voice of television superstar Bart Simpson.
"Do what you love"
In a witty and humorous address peppered with personal anecdotes and Bart-isms (and multiple comedic voices), Cartwright led off by stating, "I stand before you a confused but every successful 10-year-old boy."
She challenged graduates to:
• Do what you love. "Be your own counsel," she advise graduates, and don't be led astray by so-called friends who are bad influences.
• Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your dreams.
• Hitch your wagon to a winner.
• Be a professional.
• Trust your instincts. "Listen to your inner voice; it's right," she declared after relating how when she first auditioned for "The Simpsons," she had a chance to try for the "Lisa" part, but instead took a gamble and auditioned for "Bart."
• Decide exactly what you want to do.
"No one prepared me for success… I simply decided what I really loved doing and made little choices all along the way that focused me in that direction," Cartwright told the audience.
In addition to her work with "The Simpsons," Cartwright has provided voice work for dozens of animated television shows including "Rugrats," "All Grown Up!," "Kim Possible" and "Animaniacs."
Throughout her address, Cartwright encouraged graduates to follow their passions. After offering a few additional bits of "sage advice" from "friends" – Nelson and Todd Flanders (from "The Simpsons") and Chuckie from "Rugrats" (who drew the most applause), among others – Cartwright brought the house down with her parting advice: "Eat my shorts!"
"Today, we honor you"
In OU tradition, commencement also marked an opportunity to single out standout students among the university's distinguished academic community. Among the 2012 Outstanding Senior Leaders was Student Alumni Board President Sarah Burkhart, who addressed her fellow graduates during the morning ceremony.
Burkhart reminisced about the past four years at Ohio University – highlighting OHIO football's bowl game appearances, Marching 110 teaching the nation to shuffle to the "Party Rock Anthem," and the men's basketball team's run into the Sweet 16.
"It is up to our generation to lead the nation through a constantly changing, interconnected world. It is our time to make change and leave our mark," she said. "I encourage all of you to stand up for what you believe in, even if it means standing alone, because if you look hard enough, there will be another Bobcat standing close by."
Other Outstanding Senior Leaders recognized in the 2012 undergraduate commencement ceremonies included Scott Eardley, Jessica Huizenga, Ashanti Murdock, Jordan Thompson, Wenkai Tong, Kyle Triplett and Kyle Clem.
In his remarks, OU President Roderick J. McDavis focused on the years of effort and determination graduates put forth to earn an Ohio University diploma.
"Graduates, today, we honor you, your achievement, your commitment, and your passion," he said.
McDavis conferred honorary degrees upon Cartwright, Dean Emeritus of OU Libraries Hwa-Wei Lee and retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Michael Jackson.
Editor's note: This article is based on a piece by Monica Chapman and Colleen Kiphart for OU Compass, University Communications and Marketing's online news outlet.