YELLOW SPRINGS — Antioch College will celebrate its rebirth when 21 students participate in commencement exercises Saturday, June 20.
The college closed in 2008 and re-opened in 2011 with a group of students who received free tuition under the Horace Mann Fellowship. Mann, who failed in a bid to become governor of Massachusetts, was Antioch’s first president
The inaugural Mann fellows helped shape the college into what it is today by working with staff and professors to develop and implement policies and procedures as the school moves forward.
“The Class of 2015 are true pioneers,” said President Mark Roosevelt. “They have worked hard to recreate this great institution from their first moment stepping foot on campus as students.”
A pioneer of a different type will be the keynote speaker as noted U.S. Congressman John Lewis will address the graduates and guests.
Lewis (D-Georgia) was one of the country’s top civil rights leaders, helping to lead 600 people on a peaceful, orderly protest across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 1965. They intended to march from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state and were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence.
“It’s only fitting that a leader with such an indomitable spirit delivers their commencement address,” Roosevelt said. “We are honored and excited to welcome Congressman Lewis to Yellow Springs.”
Lewis will bring a strong message to Antioch students about the role they can play in the present and future, according to Dr. Kevin McGruder, assistant professor of history.
“I think that John Lewis’ career of activism, that began when he was the same age as our students, can help Antioch students to understand that they can make important contributions on issues that are important to them now,” he said. “Also, Congressman Lewis’ political career demonstrates that there are ways to use the skills of grassroots activism to bring about change through our political system as well.”
It won’t be the first time a civil rights leader spoke at Antioch. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the graduates. Lewis’ address brings full circle the civil rights awareness and identity the campus has.
“Having Representative John Lewis speak at Antioch’s commencement is incredibly significant because of our history of involvement in the civil rights movement and our continuing commitment to social justice,” said Mila P. Cooper, director of the Coretta Scott King Center. “It’s perfect that we have an icon of the civil rights movement and a current leader in social justice issues as the commencement speaker for our first graduating class since reopening.”
Commencement begins 10 a.m. at the site known as Red Square, between Antioch Hall and North Hall, around “the mound.”
It is free and open to the public. Coinciding with Reunion 2015, as many as 1,000 are expected to visit the campus during the weekend.
Free parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis in any of the Antioch College lots on commencement day. A state-issued disability parking permit is required for parking in designated accessible spaces. Overflow parking is available at the Mills Lawn School, 200 S. Walnut St. The college will provide complimentary shuttle service from Mills Lawn School to the shuttle drop off area near the ceremony site. The shuttle will run before and after commencement— every 15-20 minutes, from 7:30-9:30 a.m. and from 12:30-3:30 p.m. No pickups will be made after 9:30 a.m. on commencement day.