Check out our Commencement photos here.
Grove City College awarded degrees to 511 new graduates Saturday and welcomed U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse to speak at its 139th Commencement.
A Nebraska Republican who is known as a consensus builder and truth teller in the halls of power, Sasse said he wasn’t going to talk about politics, which drew applause from the hundreds gathered on the private Christian liberal arts college’s historic Quad.
Instead, Sasse talked about the crisis of loneliness, how institutions like Grove City College can help create community and where the ultimate solution lies.
The Class of 2019 is living in a singularly “disrupted moment” in history, Sasse said, driven by technology that creates enormous opportunity and wealth and frees people from the constraints of time and place and routine that are often seen as obstacles. “We are so rich and we can skim across the surface of life without roots,” he said.
The problem is that roots are important to happiness and can be the key to combating the loneliness that’s plaguing society and, Sasse said, literally killing Americans in the prime of their lives. “One of the things that drives human happiness is not just freedom from a whole lot of bad stuff you don’t want, but is freedom to: To love and to share and to pull on oars in the same direction with people. To have shared projects, to have a sense of vocation, to have a sense of we. To be in it together,” he said.
Grove City College provides that. “This is a really important gritty place and you’ve shared this place with people … You’ve had roots here over the last four years,” Sasse said. But, he stressed, faith is the ultimate answer to rootlesses and the ultimate source of happiness. It is in that permanent kingdom, established by Jesus, that provides “a fellowship across time and space.”
Grove City College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 told the graduates that it was a privilege to “live and learn with you for four years” and the purpose of their education was “to open your mind and your heart to ‘the treasures of knowledge and wisdom,’ in the words of the apostle Paul.”
He noted that higher education is in a state of flux, with some questioning the value of a traditional liberal arts education and the kind of Christ-centered experience Grove City College offers.
“A central issue is whether a four year private education is worth the cost? Is it a smart investment? Well, the answer to that question, If you are talking about Grove City College, is yes. Absolutely. The value of an education here is beyond measure. Because the focus is on eternal truth not simple temporal opportunities, McNulty said. “Let us press on to the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” he concluded.
On Saturday, the College awarded: 137 Bachelor of Arts degrees; 312 Bachelor of Science degrees; 36 Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degrees; 19 Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degrees; and 7 Bachelor of Music degrees. Forty-one percent of the members of the Class of 2019 graduated with cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors.
Sasse and Rev. Rufus Smith IV, senior pastor of Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., received honorary degrees recognizing their contributions to their fields of endeavor and society. Sasse collected a Doctor of Human Letters degree and Smith a Doctor of Divinity degree.
Grove City College’s 79-percent graduation rate is 20 points higher than the national average. Forty-two percent of alumni graduate debt-free, thanks to the College’s historic commitment to affordability and merit and need based financial aid that the private college provides with no support from the federal government.
Based on past years’ results, upwards of 96 percent of the graduating class will have jobs or be in graduate school within six months. The average starting salary for alumni is $53,500 and the 20-year net return on investment of a Grove City College education is nearly $400,000, according to PayScale.
Watch the full Commencement ceremony here.