Hiram College

Joyce Dyer

The Hiram College community marked the official start of the 2015-2016 academic year with Opening Convocation on Sept. 3, 2015.


The ceremony comprised two important events: the Class of 2019’s official installation as Hiram students and Professor of English Kirsten Parkinson, Ph.D.’s installation as the John S. Kenyon Chair in English.

After the students and faculty processed into Warren S. Hayden Auditorium, in a similar fashion as they will on Commencement Day in four years, President Lori Varlotta, Ph.D., offered insight on the transformative journey the new freshmen have begun.

“In four short years, you will prepare to walk across the graduation stage at Hiram College,” she said. “As I stand at the podium and present you with your degree, I hope you will think about how Hiram College has changed you and how you will use that transformation to do good in this world.”

Michelle Nario-Redmond, faculty chair and associate professor of psychology, called upon the Class of 2019 to live out their prediction of becoming the “next great generation.”

“(Your generation) is predicted to transform this country into a period of economic, political and social stability,” she said. “According to one leading psychologist, you will be the inspiration, creative force, intellectual foundation, economic backbone and social conscience of the 21st century.”

Installation of Kirsten L. Parkinson, Ph.D. as the John S. Kenyon Chair in English

Joyce Dyer, Ph.D., emerita professor of English and John S. Kenyon Chair in English from 2006-2014, introduced Dr. Parkinson to the community, praising the hard work and accomplishments that led her to earn the prestigious title of academic chair.

In her address “Rethinking Return on Investment,” Dr. Parkinson challenged the community to think beyond traditional definitions of “return on investment” and presented five tangibles and intangibles that come as a result of a college education:

  1. A job
  2. A sense of the rich intersection of knowledge
  3. Knowing that it’s not just about the money
  4. Discovery of your place in the world
  5. Finding out who you are and who you want to be

The national conversation constantly questions the value of a college education, encouraging students to choose from a list of “in-demand” and “high-paying” majors, but Dr. Parkinson affirmed that it is a liberal arts education that prepares students to answer life’s big questions and respond to the world’s problems.

“Our challenges will only be overcome if creative thinkers from all disciplines come together to share their ideas,” Dr. Parkinson said. “I am certain that some of these creative thinkers and future problem-solvers are sitting in this room right now. I know, because I have seen them sitting here in the past, and they are now out, working to tackle the world’s problems, on scales both large and small.”

She encouraged the new students to think about “return on investment” in terms of the personal happiness or satisfaction they will find in life, reminding them that the most satisfying path is not always the easiest – but that it is worth it in the end.

“My challenge to you today is to make your end result at Hiram College – the return on your investment – so much more than you expected.”

About the John S. Kenyon Chair in English

The tradition of academic chairs began in Elizabethan times, when chairs were a luxury. Most people sat on wooden stools, benches or cushions on the floor. But when a teacher was raised to a position of professor, he was presented with an actual chair as a symbol of his elevated status in the world of learning. At Hiram, academic chairs are endowed faculty positions, made possible for the generosity of donors who are committed to sustaining excellence in teaching and scholarship.

The John S. Kenyon Chair in English has been made possible since 1993 through a generous endowment by the estates of Martha E. Kenyon and Elizabeth K. Andress. The position is bestowed upon a faculty member who is committed to excellence in teaching and named after John S. Kenyon, a well-known American linguist who was head of Hiram’s English Department from 1916 until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1944.