Times columnist honors history, accomplishment at convocation


    When looking at the current state of the economy, many students can feel discouraged about their futures after graduation. 

    All they needed to do was shift their gazes to an iPhone, said Timothy Egan, op-ed columnist for The New York Times, to find that history has seen worse.

    Egan shared his explorations of American history and stories of the Dust Bowl to provide context during his speech at this year’s 49th annual Honors Convocation on Thursday, which had the theme “The Best of Days.”

    Egan said he considered himself an “accidental historian” and compared the ceremony’s date of April 19 to the first shots of the Revolutionary War and the Oklahoma City bombing, which happened on the same day in history.

    Benjamin Sinn, a junior geography and political science double major, attended the ceremony as an honors ambassador and said he gained appreciation for “the positive optimism that defines our country through its history.”

    Sinn’s fellow honors students were recognized as senior scholars and inductees in the Phi Beta Kappa Society by Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Nowell Donovan. Only 10 percent of liberal arts students were inducted into the society, Donovan said, and the university was part of the 10 percent of schools who had a chapter in the nation.

    Students’ families and friends came to support those inducted as well as seniors who were chosen as high-achieving scholars in their department. Senior strategic communication major Lauren Silver said she appreciated the recognition of her hard work as a senior scholar for the Schieffer School of Journalism.

    Thirty-seven senior scholars accounted for the different departments, and 34 students who were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa followed the processional played by the TCU student Brass Quintet into the Ed Landreth Auditorium.

    The quintet, along with the duo of honors faculty members Gloria Lin on the piano and Jesús Castro-Balbi on the cello, set the mood of triumph with their range of musical dynamics from minor note phrases to crescendos. Chancellor Victor Boschini closed his eyes to enjoy the piece “Revolutions,” composed by Till Meyn, an assistant professor of theory and composition.

    Boschini said the convocation’s theme often stirred up feelings of nostalgia but said, “The best days aren’t gold but purple.” Looking toward the university’s future, he said its achievements would only get better.

    For James Riddlesperger, professor of political science, he said there would “not be a better April 19 than today.”

    Riddlesperger said he was deeply appreciative of receiving the 2012 Honors Professor of the Year Award, which is selected by honors students.

    Junior political science major Pearce Edwards spoke as a member of the Honors Student Cabinet and said students had described Riddlesperger as “a great person with a really good heart.”

    Edwards said Riddlesperger also had been involved with leading students in the political science department’s Washington, D.C., internship program and advising pre-law majors. This was Riddlesperger’s 20th year at the university, Edwards said, and he has been known for his student involvement and work for social justice.