William Penn Celebrates 2019 Graduates

Dane Jones receives his diploma from William Penn President John Ottosson on Saturday morning.

Dane Jones receives his diploma from William Penn President John Ottosson on Saturday morning.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – By Monday morning, the campus of William Penn University will be quiet and still. It’s an eerie feeling after a year filled with education and excitement.

On Saturday, William Penn University graduated the Class of 2019, sending them on their way to the next chapter in life.

Approximately 300 students walked across the stage, earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

The keynote speaker on Saturday was Dr. Irving C. Jones Sr, who is a William Penn Graduate from the early 1970s.

Dr. Jones was “drafted” to be the speaker after the scheduled speaker was involved in an accident.

Dr. Jones came to Oskaloosa via the South Bronx of New York City shortly after the civil rights movement.

Dr. Jones spent 34 years in public education and has been recognized nationally as a leader in education.

“It was 48 years ago when I first stepped on this campus,” Dr. Jones remembered. “Recruited from New York City to play football. Never realizing at that time the impact that this place would have on my life.”

“In 1971, my first impression that I had of Iowa was that there was no black folk,” joked Dr. Jones. “I was in uncharted waters and I only had a one-way ticket, so going back home was not an option.

“William Penn and the City of Oskaloosa became my personal laboratory for having very candid conversations about race, and race relationships,” Dr. Jones said of his time at William Penn. “In the aftermath of the civil rights era, there was still a wall up between white and black students on campus. My goal was to build bridges and tear down walls.”

“We had 15 black students on campus, and we opened a black house down on Main Street. It became a community meeting place where we displayed African artifacts, had an extensive library on African-American literature and history. We sponsored forums with various civic organizations and fraternities and sororities.”

Dr. Jones spoke about how the perceptions white had of blacks could be negative after the civil rights movement, and that black individuals faced social challenges. “When I left William Penn University, the experiences I had here made me want to make a change, and I chose public education to make changes happen in my community and my country.”

Dr. Jones then questioned the graduates, “What are you going to do? Will you build bridges or will you build walls? In my opinion, it takes courage to build bridges and it takes cowards to build walls.”

“Courage is nothing more than moving forward when you’re most afraid,” Dr. Jones added.

“As an educator, the first lesson I learned was to understand that success was not a destination, it’s a journey,” Dr. Jones said. “On this journey, you must have the courage to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.”

“So I say to you graduates, don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid to not try,” said Dr. Jones. “The best advice I can give you is always seek excellence in your life in everything you do. You’ll find out pretty quickly that in work and life, that being pretty good will not be good enough.”

In conclusion, Dr. Jones shared a paraphrased version of the poem ‘Anyway’ by Dr. Kent M. Keith. “When children and adults do not RSVP. Bring them anyway. When people believe children and adults can’t make it, expect success anyway. When people say the time is not right to build bridges, start building bridges anyway. Bridges that you’ve spent years building may be destroyed overnight. I say to you, get up and rebuild those bridges anyway. I’m certain that if you give the world the best that you’ve got, sometimes you’ll be cruelly kicked in the teeth. Get another set of teeth and give the world the best you have anyway.”

The graduates of William Penn then dismissed to the lawn in front of Penn Hall, where they participated in the Blue and Gold ceremony. A century-long tradition of welcoming the graduates as alumni.

Posted by on May 5 2019. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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