Mount Union Holds 163rd Commencement Ceremony

May 18, 2009

Graduates of the Class of 2009Telling the 358 Mount Union College graduates that they will change the world – it’s just a matter of how, James W. Griffith, president and chief executive officer of The Timken Company delivered the College’s Commencement address Saturday at the 163rd Commencement Ceremony.

Griffith, who has served on the Mount Union Board of Trustees since 2004, stressed the power of a liberal arts education. “Liberal arts students are prepared for a lifetime of learning,” he said, “no matter which path they choose.”

Griffith’s ties to Mount Union began not with the Timken connection, but as a parent, when his daughter enrolled in 1994. “Our story actually begins with football, as I am sure that many Mount Union stories do, but has since grown to encompass an appreciation of all that Mount Union College has to offer. And, especially, the benefits of a liberal arts education.”

Offering insight into life after graduation, Griffith talked about the many paths open from which to choose. “The choices you make may shape your life in ways that surprise you,” he said. To illustrate this, Griffith shared his personal journey from college graduate to president of the Timken Company and the path followed by his own daughter and son-in-law on their journey from Mount Union to being parents and having successful careers.

James Griffith presents 2009 Commencement address“Whatever path you choose, you have the power to change the world,” he added. Griffith, who has traveled more than 20 times to China and often meets with some of the nearly 5,000 people that Timken employs there, shared the significant impact of visiting an orphanage in China with his wife Pam and nine-year old grandson Reid. “Our church in North Canton built this orphanage several years ago in a remote village in China,” he said. “Three years ago, we had an opportunity to visit.”

Concerned how their grandson Reid would react upon seeing the level of poverty there, they were surprised to find that all Reid saw was a group of kids to play with. Seeing them through his eyes, they became kids-same as anywhere-who needed food, shelter, and education. But the most poignant memory of that visit was when it was time to leave.  “My sweaty grandson jumped into the van, looked up at me, and said, ‘Grampa, that was fun.’” Reid’s view of the world became contagious. The Griffiths have since been involved in two additional orphanage projects. More than 300 Chinese children now have a place to call home as a result of Reid’s open-minded perspective.

“You will change the world for the people you touch,” concluded Griffith. “Think carefully about the impact you want to have.”

Griffith was then presented with the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by Raymond Posey, associate professor of economics, accounting and business administration and chair of the Department of Economics, Accounting and Business Administration.

Kendall Koons, the senior class president, spoke on behalf of the class of 2009. The Heaton W. Harris and Corinne Harris Smith Prize was presented to senior Laura Jurasko, a music education major of Mingo Junction, OH. The Good Citizenship Award went to senior Rebekah Deppert, a psychology major of Avon, OH.

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