BLUFFTON — The graduating class of 2018 at Bluffton University had the privilege of hearing the final commencement address for retiring President James M. Harder.
Harder has been at Bluffton University for a dozen years and will be stepping down at the end of June. Jane Wood will be his replacement.
While the ceremony was bittersweet for Harder, it marked the next step in the careers of the 201 graduates who attended commencement at the Sommer Center.
Emma Eickholt, from Ottoville, is one of the students who earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Speech-Language Pathology. She plans to attend Ohio University to work on a graduate degree in Speech-Language Pathology.
“Bluffton is just an amazing place. It introduced me to so many different people and the faculty was amazing. It really helped me grow as a person, just mentally, spiritually, emotionally. I have changed so much over the past four years. It’s incredible,” said Eickholt.
Ashley Backs, from Coldwater, Ohio, is ready to enter the teaching profession after studying early childhood education.
“Definitely the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. Just the relationships here are incredible with its friendships, just the community in general, professors really care about you personally. You’re just not a number here,” said Backs.
“It’s been wonderful to be Bluffton’s president for 12 years. It’s bittersweet to give the final commencement address, but I’m so happy for these graduates and I’ll carry a lot of good memories out the door with them,” said Dr. Harder.
Harder’s message to the students was to challenge them to join three circles in life: “the circles of our alumni network, which is really quite large and makes a lot of big and small differences in the world every day. I’m encouraging them to join the circle of truthtellers in the world and the circle of peacemakers in the world,” said Harder.
“It’s an absolute privilege to be part of an institution that makes such dramatic change in the lives of our students from the time they come to the time they graduate. I think one of the biggest privileges any college president probably has is visiting alumni, and you see those values and you see those life lessons being lived out in life and again making the difference that our alumni make. It’s edifying to see that happen, and in most cases I’ve known personally, I have had very little to do with that, but collectively the faculty and staff of the university, I think, can feel very good about the outcomes of our education,” Harder noted.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.