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Juniata Graduates Urged to Work Hard to Improve on Previous Generation\'s Work

(Posted May 14, 2007)

Edward Walker, Christian Johnson Professor at Hamilton College and former chief executive officer at the Middle East Institute

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Edward Walker, Christian Johnson Professor at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., a former ambassador to Israel and the former president and chief executive officer of the Middle East Institute, advised the 2007 graduating class at Juniata College that every generation of students has improved the world inherited from the previous generation and assured the graduates that they will leave the world a better place than they found it.
The graduating class of 348 students were awarded bachelor of arts (108) or bachelor of science degrees (240) at the ceremony today presided over by Juniata President Thomas R. Kepple Jr. In addition, the college awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Ron Wertz, president and CEO of the Hillman Families Foundation, based in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Donald Mitchell, professor emeritus of chemistry at Juniata.
Wertz, a 1959 Juniata graduate, started his career in higher education at Juniata in 1959 as assistant director of admissions. He was promoted to director of admissions in 1960. In 1963, he moved to Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., where he initially served as director of financial aid and placement, and later as director of development. He left Franklin and Marshall in 1969 to join the Hillman Foundation as its first executive director.
In 1990, he was named president and trustee of the foundation, titles he still holds. Since joining the foundation in 1969, he has worked with members of the Hillman family developing their philanthropic interests and currently serves as either president or executive director of the family's foundations. Ron has been an active volunteer for Juniata College. He served on the college's board of trustees from 1987 to 1993 and served on the President's Development Council. In 1994, he received the Harold B. Brumbaugh Alumni Service Award.
Mitchell joined the Juniata faculty in 1967 as assistant professor of chemistry and established himself as a teacher and researcher in physical chemistry. Mitchell's most celebrated contribution to Juniata's educational mission is Science in Motion, the chemistry and biology outreach program that brings professional scientific equipment and experiments into more than 25 middle and high schools in central Pennsylvania. The program, which he founded in 1986, has since been expanded statewide through a consortium of 11 colleges and universities. The program has also been replicated by other states, most notably, Alabama and Delaware.
Mitchell earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Westminster College in 1960 and went on to earn a doctoral degree in physical chemistry from Vanderbilt University in 1965. He received the Beachley Distinguished Professor Award in 1986 and received the Beachley Award for Distinguished Academic Service in 1991. Most recently, he received the Technology Educator of the Year Award in 2004 from the Technology Council of Central Pennsylvania.
"When I graduated from college in 1962, the doomsday clock that symbolically indicates how close we are to nuclear annihilation, stood at seven minutes to midnight, right where it had started in 1947," Walker said in the opening of his commencement address. "Over the years, things went up and down as international events brought us closer and further away from blowing ourselves up. Today the clock stands at a mere five minutes to midnight. That strikes me as strange, that we would be closer to nuclear annihilation in 2007 than in 1962, shortly before the Cuban Missile Crisis."
Walker, who has worked almost his entire career in the politically volatile Middle East, tempered his opening by explaining that careers, as well as world events, rarely proceed in a predictable fashion. Using his own biography as a roadmap, Walker explained how he went from service in the Army, to the State Department, to service in Israel, "When they offered me the post in Israel, I knew virtually nothing about Israel or the Middle East. I read as much as I could on Israel. I watched the movie 'Exodus' and signed up for a four-year stint. A series of circumstances and disjointed decisions -- certainly no plan on my part -- brought me to Israel and my career."
Deftly tracing a path that brought him into close working relationships with some of the world's most renowned power brokers, including Henry Kissinger, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Anwar Sadat, Madeleine Albright, Paul Wolfowitz and Al Gore, Walker illustrated how history is made -- one meeting or event at a time.
Walker returned to his central point of the commencement address, saying, "Why are we only five minutes away from self annihilation today, when we were seven minutes away at the height of the Cold War? It is because in 2007, they added a new calculation to the determination of the length of our existence on this planet -- global warming."

\"We have made some progress over the years and maybe we will make some more before we are through. But one thing is sure; my generation is going to leave your generation with plenty of things left to do in the Middle East and the world. That is what we can hope for and that is what makes the future for you both exciting and promising."

"My generation may have reduced the threat of annihilation from global nuclear war, but yours may face the threat from a perfect storm of the adverse consequences of global warming," he concluded. "If you are worried about not having enough challenges for the future to keep you busy -- don't. When I first went to the Middle East, I thought we would have the situation there wrapped up in no time. And I could not understand how previous generations had left us in such a mess. Now I know why. We have made some progress over the years and maybe we will make some more before we are through. But one thing is sure; my generation is going to leave your generation with plenty of things left to do in the Middle East and the world. That is what we can hope for and that is what makes the future for you both exciting and promising."
The 2007 Senior Class Gift is $15,000, which will be used to relocate the student radio station WKVR to a new office and studio space in Ellis Hall.
Walker recently resigned as president of the Middle East Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank on Middle East policy. He served as ambassador to both Israel and Egypt. He became the head of the Middle East Institute in 2001.
Walker served as the ambassador to Israel from 1997 to 1999. He also held the positions of ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt (1994-1997), Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations with ambassadorial rank (1993-1994), and ambassador to the United Arab Emirates through the period of the Gulf War (1989-1992).
Over the course of his career he has served in Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Egypt. His Washington, D.C. assignments include two years as Special Assistant to the President's Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Negotiations (1979-1981), and two years as executive assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State (1982-1984).
He is currently a member of the Aspen Institute Middle East Strategy Group and serves on several boards, including the American Academy of Diplomacy and the U.S.-Egypt Friendship Society. He earned a bachelor's degree at Hamilton College and a master's degree at Boston University.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.