Bright Day, Bright Future: Class of 2022 Celebrates Commencement
May 8, 2022
By Jake Weber
After a week of rainy days and nervous weather watching, Albion College breathed a sigh of relief on the perfect spring day that was Commencement 2022. Faculty, friends and families of nearly 320 graduates gathered on the campus Quadrangle May 7 in celebration of the College’s newest alumni.
“We are incredibly proud of all that you have achieved through your classes and projects; during your internships and off-campus experiences; in the friendships and lasting connections you’ve made,” said Interim President Joe Calvaruso, ’78, during his welcoming remarks. “We know that even more impressive accomplishments are yet to come — accomplishments that will help shape your future, to be certain, but ours as well. Congratulations, and thank you!”
Haley McQuown, ’22, addressing her classmates as the senior class speaker, said, “My phone passcode for the past four years has been 050722. It hit me that I have to change it, not just because I just told all of you what my passcode is, but also because 050722 — the day that we all have been anticipating — has finally arrived.”
McQuown went on to note that the Class of 2022 distinguished itself through a spirit of community that learned how to navigate virtual environments, led the re-establishment of student organizations following the COVID-19 pandemic, protested for change and founded numerous groups devoted to campus diversity.
“We are about to leave the physical boundaries of Albion College, but we have the tools to benefit [our new communities] with our individual strengths, and we also have each other,” McQuown said. “We will be of even more value to each other as we continue to learn and grow wherever we go next. And, for the record, I could never have done this without all of you.”
Along with receiving an honorary doctorate of humane letters, 1977 Albion alumnus James Wilson, M.D. Ph.D., gave the College’s newest graduates a thought-provoking Commencement address. A world-class gene therapy researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, Wilson and his wife, Lisa Dolik Wilson, ’79, gave one of the College’s largest gifts to establish, in 2018, the Lisa and James Wilson Institute for Medicine, which counts 71 members among the Class of 2022. An additional $1 million gift from the Wilsons to further support and expand Institute offerings was announced from the stage during the Commencement ceremony.
In his remarks, Wilson discussed the “bright side” of medical technology in addressing the COVID pandemic — along with the persistent “dark side” of growing inequities in health care among countries and populations. “Developing global solutions to global health problems is not only the right and moral thing to do; it’s the necessary thing to do,” Wilson said.
Moving closer to some of his own work — advancing the ability of gene therapy to address rare diseases — Wilson shared the startling fact that 1 in 10 Americans suffers from a rare disease (defined as affecting fewer than 1,000 people). Again, Wilson noted that while the research on diseases such as sickle cell, muscular dystrophy and hemophilia — to name a few — is exciting, medical science can’t ignore larger questions of access. “It’s important that we establish business models or nonprofit vehicles to support development,” he said.
Wilson concluded his remarks with a few of the lessons he gained from his own student days. “The technical competencies of sciences and humanities served as essential foundations for my career, but my Albion experience provided me with much, much more, “ he said. “At Albion, I learned to think big. I learned that my learning does not stop at graduation. Your goal should be to assure that you are never the smartest person in the room.
“At Albion I also learned the importance of service in helping the most vulnerable and underserved, which in my career is rare diseases,” Wilson said. “I hope the purpose you learned will serve as a beacon for you to continue to do good in this world. We’re counting on you.”
Michael Dixon, professor of art and art history, offered the faculty farewell following the conferral of degrees. “When you leave here and go out into the world, that is when the true mentorship begins,” he said, recounting a conversation he had this week with a former student who is now a graduate teaching assistant at Purdue University.
“He was in the midst of grading his drawing class when he thought to call me to let me know that now he ‘gets it.’ We had a good laugh,” Dixon said, adding that such relationships — lasting well past any student’s four years — are something to look forward to for every member of the Class of 2022. “I hope you know that we, the faculty, will always be a resource for you along this journey. And we will look forward to that random call when you let us know that now you ‘get it,’ too.”