By Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan University celebrated its 179th commencement ceremony May 13, with keynote speaker Brigadier General Deydre Smyth Teyhen encouraging the Class of 2023 to “lead in a manner that will make the future brighter for the next generation.”

“Honestly, it is hard to believe I was sitting in those chairs 30 years ago as a proud member of the Class of 1993,” said Teyhen, commanding general of Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. “The great news is you chose wisely when you opted to come to Ohio Wesleyan. OWU provided me an amazing canvas on which I have been able to paint as a soldier, a physical therapist, a college professor, a researcher, and a leader. As one of only 31 female generals in your U.S. Army, I am so glad my journey started here at Ohio Wesleyan.”

As an OWU student, Teyhen earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sports Science. Today, she also holds a Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biomechanics, Doctor of Physical Therapy, and Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies. In 2022, she was named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association, the group’s highest member honor.

Teyhen has used her education to build a military career focused on improving the delivery of healthcare, holistic health, and readiness. During the pandemic, she served as the Department of Defense Lead of Therapeutics for Operation Warp Speed at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and as commander of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

“No matter what career field you are pursuing,” Teyhen told the Ohio Wesleyan graduates, “I hope you will lead by putting people first, lead with a goal of making our communities and nation stronger, lead to make the world we live in better, and lead in a manner that will make the future brighter for the next generation. … Lead well, OWU, lead well.”

In addition to Teyhen, graduating senior Reagan Jennings of Columbus, Ohio, also addressed the Class of 2023, after being chosen by her peers to speak.

“As you all move onto the next chapter of your life, whether that be higher education, working, or starting a family,” Jennings said, “know that this is just the beginning of all the possibilities the world has to offer.

“What I have learned here is that your life is your journey,” said Jennings, a Biology major and Environmental Science minor. “You are spectacular, regardless of what you will go on to do. You have a purpose, and you were meant to be in this position for some divine reason that we may never understand. …

“Congratulations to the Class of 2023,” concluded Jennings, who will enter graduate school at The Ohio State University in the fall to pursue plans to become a veterinarian. “Keep an open mind and an open heart. School may be over, but many of life’s lessons are yet to be learned.”

President Rock Jones, Ph.D., also addressed the Class of 2023, congratulating the graduates for their perseverance and accomplishment as they have learned and grown as Bishops.

“So here we are,” he continued. “We’re seniors together, right? We’re seniors together. I’ve had 15; you’ve had four years. I look back on the person I was when I arrived and I think about who I am today, and I am forever changed because I was, for 15 years, on this campus, a college that changes lives. And I’ve seen that happen with you.

“And so today, here’s what I know,” Jones said. “I know that you’re ready, and I know that the world is waiting, and it needs you.”

The graduating students included nearly 300 spring, summer, and fall graduates, with three members achieving perfect 4.0 grade point averages: Alena Arnold of Jeromesville, Ohio; Josephina Fornara of Coshocton, Ohio; and Hannah Watson of Tiffin, Ohio.

During the Saturday afternoon ceremony, Ohio Wesleyan also honored three outstanding faculty members with special awards:

  • Phokeng Dailey, Ph.D., associate professor of Communication, received The Sherwood Dodge Shankland Award for Encouragement of Teachers. Dailey joined the OWU faculty in 2017.
  • Shala Hankison, Ph.D., associate professor of Biological Sciences, received The Bishop Herbert Welch Meritorious Teaching Award. A 1995 Ohio Wesleyan graduate, Hankison joined the university faculty in 2009.
  • Chris Wolverton, Ph.D., professor of Biological Sciences, received The Bishop Herbert Welch Award for Scholarly or Artistic Achievement. Wolverton joined the OWU faculty in 2002.

President Jones concluded the 179th commencement ceremony with Ohio Wesleyan’s traditional benediction, encouraging OWU’s newest alumni to share their knowledge and compassion with a world in need.

“If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have found freedom, take it with you into the world,” Jones said. “If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have found peace, go and share it with others. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have found some portion of truth, go and seek it all the more. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have learned to dream dreams, help one another, and those dreams may come true. If, here at Ohio Wesleyan, you have known love, give some back to a hurting and bruised world.”

The commencement ceremony not only concluded the OWU journeys of the new graduates but also for Jones as well. He will retire from the university June 30, following 15 years of service as Ohio Wesleyan’s 16th president.

Ohio Wesleyan’s complete commencement ceremony will be archived online for on-demand viewing at Learn more about the event at

Cover Photo, Above: Ohio Wesleyan University celebrated its 179th commencement ceremony May 13. The OWUComm Class of 2023 includes nearly 300 spring, summer, and fall graduates. It also includes President Rock Jones, who oversaw his final commencement and wore a traditional mortar board cap in recognition of his own ‘graduation’ and retirement. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Second Photo: Brigadier General Deydre Smyth Teyhen, a 1993 Ohio Wesleyan alumna, gives the keynote address, ‘Lead Well, OWU.’ (Photo by Paul Vernon)

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