OWU postpones 2020 commencement as students say goodbye to campus  

Meg Edwards and Hailey de la Vara

Transcript correspondents



Ohio Wesleyan University announced Tuesday it is postponing commencement ceremonies – for now.

In another stunning blow to students already reeling from cancelation of all class meetings for the remainder of the semester due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, OWU President Rock Jones sent a campus-wide email just before 3 p.m., sharing the message he gave to the senior class about graduation earlier in the day.

“ … my heart aches knowing that you can’t be on campus to complete your senior year,” the email said. “(But) will we have a Class of 2020 ceremony? The answer is a resounding YES!”

The date for that, however, is yet to be determined.

With a nod to the current reality, Jones wrote: “I can’t wait to hand you your diploma and shake your hand (or maybe bump your elbow) as you walk across the graduation stage in front of cheering family members and friends.”

Jones promised additional “festivities” would be planned for graduating seniors so they could properly celebrate with classmates and families.

Nonetheless, for seniors like Mahnoor Ansari, it was a bitter pill to swallow. She groaned when she saw the email on her phone.

“I don’t want to read it,” she said.

Senior Emily VanDermark, who is on OWU’s women’s softball team, said she is having a difficult time wrapping her head around the entire situation.

“For me the whole situation is just really sad. Mostly because it isn’t directly anyone’s fault,” she said. “In a span of one week I’ve lost my final season and my last times on campus with my classmates, sorority sisters, teammates and friends.”

Meanwhile, across campus students were hauling refrigerators and boxes of clothes out of their dorms, with many parents trailing close behind.

Sophomore Jacquelyn Keslar said the campus was turning into a ghost town.

Although new guidelines require the Bishop Cafe to close its seated dining area, students gathered Tuesday with their carry-out food in the Hamilton-Williams Campus Center atrium to share a meal with friends before leaving campus.

Jones acknowledged this new darker reality in his email, but also offered encouragement.

“The spirit of the campus, while saddened by the departure of students and the need for most of us to isolate and work remotely, is strong and good,” he wrote. “We are fortunate to be a part of the Bishop family, and we are grateful for the support that has been shared by so many.”

Axelrod, men’s basketball open season with high hopes

By: Evan Walsh, Transcript correspondent

Nate Axelrod '18. Photo courtesy of the Battling Bishops website.
Nate Axelrod ’18. Photo courtesy of the Battling Bishops website.

In basketball, size matters.

Don’t tell sophomore Nate Axelrod that. Despite his small stature, last year’s National Freshman of the Year is ready to lead the Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball team to another conference title.

“I’m not tall,” Axelrod said. “But you can’t let what you don’t have define you.”

Axelrod has found other ways to compensate for his size, or lack thereof. With technical precision that belies his 5’7 frame, the young man from Dublin, Ohio, has spent his life developing his skill set as a player.

“He’s constantly looking for ways to improve. Coaches and other players appreciate a blue collar work ethic,” said Matt Jeske, a senior forward and team captain.

That hard work bore fruit in a 2014-­2015 season in which he took home National Freshman of the Year, First Team all NCAC and Third Team All-­American honors. No small feat for a small man.

Still, basketball is a team game, and Axelrod knows his personal accomplishments mean nothing when it comes to the team’s success. “I get to suffer through the emotional highs and lows with my best friends, my teammates,” Axelrod said. “I need their support. Without it I never could have won those awards.”

Coach Mike Dewitt draws comparisons to former Battling Bishop and All-­American, Andy Winters, class of 2013. “Both guys are undersized, but they work hard to control the rhythm of the game by getting teammates involved,” Dewitt said.

“It’s his selflessness that separates Nate from the other players and young men I’ve coached,” Dewitt said. “He’s a leader in everything he does.”

Axelrod is an equally capable student, making the Dean’s List each semester while mentoring at-risk students for several hours each week.

Through the first three weeks of practice Axelrod is optimistic about this year’s team. All five of last years starters return this year and look to redeem themselves after last year’s loss to St. Olaf College in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament.

“We’re going to win the regular season conference title and the conference championship,” Axelrod said.

The No. 13 ranked team in the nation open their begin their season Saturday, Nov. 14 against conference rival, Otterbein University.

Wil Haygood to speak at graduation

Wil Haygood. Photo courtesy of ohiodominican.edu.
Wil Haygood. Photo courtesy of ohiodominican.edu.

The American journalist and author Wil Haygood is set to speak at Ohio Wesleyan’s commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 10.

Haygood was chosen by Ohio Wesleyan president, Rock Jones and senior class president, Elizabeth Fisher.

Haygood is known for his Washington Post article, “A Butler Well Served By This Election.” This article was about Eugene Allen and serves as the basis for the movie The Butler, which came out in 2013.

Haygood has covered many monumental events in history such as Hurricane Katrina, which hit Louisiana in 2005. He has also covered the presidential campaign of Barack Obama in 2008.

Since the release of the movie, Haygood has written a book about Allen, entitled The Butler: A Witness to History. His work is based on butlers that have served in the White House during different presidencies.

“He’s had a very exciting life so far, so I’m sure he will have an interesting speech and advice,” senior Sarah Dailey said.

Haygood was taken hostage by Somali rebels in 1990. He was rescued by troops from Pakistan and in that same year, he was outside the South African prison, which was housing Nelson Mandela. At that same time, Mandela was released.

“I am very excited to hear what he has to say,” senior Alex Thrasher said. “It seems as though he has had very interesting life experiences, and has made the most of them in a very positive way.”

As part of the ceremony, Haygood will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from OWU. The university saw this fit through his many personal and scholarly achievements.

“Wil Haygood is an amazing author and I am so glad that Ohio Wesleyan has chosen him to speak at graduation,” senior Ali Smith said. “I am looking forward to all that he has to say and the advice that he will share with us.”