SALEM, Va. -The Rev. Dr. Donald Armentrout, the Quintard Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the University of the South's School of Theology, served as Roanoke College's commencement speaker. Armentrout, a 1961 graduate of Roanoke, was recognized with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Dr. Lewis Lancaster,a member of Roanoke's class of 1954, also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. The Class of 2007 is comprised of a record 410 graduates from 25 states and seven foreign countries.
"The tassel is worth the hassle" Armentrout said. "Think of [your education] as a ticket to change the world. Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. And leave the rest to God. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can really make a difference in this world, so that you are able with God's grace to do what others claim cannot be done."
In his speech, Armentrout encouraged graduates to "be politically involved and an advocate for social justice." He also encouraged graduates and all in attendance to "be like the students at Virginia Tech, whose safe world has been violated, whose carefree dance into spring has been marred by violence. And yet their instinct was to help victims, to find friends, and to honor their common humanity."
Laura E. Cassels, a physics major from Roanoke, earned the top honor as Valedictorian. In her valedictory address, Cassels said, "I want to instill in you a desire to use your beautiful brains to bust out of the box and make your mark in this world."
Ashley Lauren Gilliam, an English major from Glade Spring, Va., was the Salutatorian.
Rev. Paul Henrickson, Dean of the Chapel, presented the baccalaureate sermon titled "Farther than the 'I' Can See."
Armentrout lives in Sewanee, Tennessee, and since 1967 has been a member of the faculty of Sewanee: The University of the South's School of Theology, an Episcopal seminary. A noted scholar and author, he also has lectured throughout the United States. He is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A native of Harrisonburg, Armentrout received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Roanoke College in 1961.
Lancaster, a Bent Mountain native who lives in Stinson Beach, California, is member of Roanoke's class of 1954. He is a specialist in the canons of Buddhist texts. Lancaster taught for 33 years at the University of California, Berkeley, and later served as president of the University of the West. Later this year, he will be serving as visiting Professor at Korea University in Seoul and will be awarded the Manhae Prize for his contributions to the field of Asian studies.
Cassels' plans include moving to Italy for a year to teach English to Italians. She studied abroad in Italy during a semester in her junior year. "I loved it so much that I really wanted to go back," Cassels said. "Since I am waiting a year until I go to graduate school to get a Ph.D. in physics, I really wanted to spend that year going back to Italy to see if I could make it on my own and find out if I really want to live there permanently some day."
After graduate school, Cassels plans to do research in physics in either an industrial or government environment. She also may want to teach physics at the university level. Cassels spent two summers in Roanoke's summer scholars program performing research with her academic advisor concerning the characterization and analysis of iron oxides found on the Civil War battleship, the USS Monitor, using low-temperature Mössbauer Spectroscopy and Infrared Spectroscopy.
Cassels enjoys a long list of honors, including membership in Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Chi, Pi Mu Epsilon (math honors fraternity), Alpha Lambda Delta, Omicron Delta Kappa leadership society and Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. She has been actively involved in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and served as editor-in-chief of the yearbook. Cassels is the senior scholar in physics and received the Alpha Lambda Delta Award and the Physics Society Award.
Gilliam is an English major from Glade Spring, Va. planning a career in publishing. After graduation, she will pursue a master's degree in publishing and editing at Emerson College in Boston. While at Roanoke, she spent one year studying at the University of East Anglia in England and held an internship this past semester with Leisure Publishing in Roanoke.
A Phi Beta Kappa, Gilliam is involved in the College's honors program and served as managing editor of the Roanoke Review, a national literary journal. She won a writing contest called the "AX" award at the National Alpha Chi Student Conference for a paper she wrote about a Jane Austen novel Emma: The Use and Failure of Fantasy. Gilliam is senior scholar this year in the English department. She also won the College's Jordan Endowment Essay Contest and third place in this year's in the campus Andrew Murphy Fiction Competition.
Roanoke College, the country's second oldest Lutheran-related college, is an independent, co-educational, four-year liberal arts college. Roanoke is one of just 276 colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review names Roanoke as one of the "best in the Southeast." Roanoke's 1,900 students represent 41 states across the U.S. and 25 foreign countries.
For additional information, call the Roanoke College Public Relations Office at (540) 375-2282 or (540) 815-2421.