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Branch Rickey, Sharon Robinson Share Stage at OWU's 160th Commencement

May 9, 2004

[ Sharon Robinson and Branch Rickey III Photo ] DELAWARE, OHIO -- "You may not today envision yourselves as altering society some day, but be assured, your challenge will come, and you will be tested to make an impact," said Branch B. Rickey and Sharon Robinson, as Ohio Wesleyan's keynote speakers at the University's 160th Commencement on Sunday, May 9.

Family and friends of the 365 graduates listened intently as Rickey, President of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) and grandson of baseball executive, Wesley Branch Rickey, and Robinson, Vice President of Educational Programming for Major League Baseball, and daughter of baseball legend, Jackie Robinson spoke on campus. Sharing stories about the social climate of the country when the elder Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team -- thus breaking baseball's color barrier -- the speakers also talked about what it has been like to grow up as close relatives to such legendary people.

"I decided to see how I could make good of my legacy and I forged my own path in life by taking risks, following my passions, and dedicating my life to social justice," said Robinson, who also is an author and was a nurse-midwife and educator for 20 years. Her most recent book, Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, is a photographic biography for children that she says, allowed her to tell the full story of her father's life.

"I remember my grandfather's funeral in 1965, when members of the Harlem Globetrotter's team stopped in to pay their respects to him. What a statement that made about my grandfather, and how transforming that was for me as a 20-year-old Ohio Wesleyan student," said Rickey. "But breaking baseball's color barrier was part of what Jackie did; he shattered the myth that you can judge someone by the color of skin."

Also part of OWU's Commencement program was the presentation of the University's two highest teaching awards. The Bishop Herbert Welch Meritorious Teaching Award was presented to Professor of Music, Robert A. Griffith. Receiving the Sherwood Dodge Shankland Award for the Encouragement of Teachers, was Associate Professor of English, Patricia DeMarco. Though not an annual award, the Daniel Anderson Community Service Award was given to Professor of Fine Arts, Marty Kalb. In addition, four OWU retiring professors received Adam Poe Medals: Professors Bernard Murchland (Philosophy), Lew Fikes (Chemistry), Anne Fry (Zoology) and Bo Rabby (Theatre).

In addition, honorary degrees were conferred upon Dr.Vera Rubin, Dr. Franklin Littell, Jackie Robinson (posthumously), and Wesley Branch Rickey (reenactment of the honorary degree he received in 1947 from OWU). This year marks Rickey's OWU centennial graduation anniversary.