AU President Carlos Campo speaking at 2024 commencement

Outgoing AU President Campo honored at commencement, then encourages graduates to “hold fast”

Published on May 04, 2024
Ashland University

ASHLAND, Ohio – Every commencement exercise serves as a time of significant celebration, but Saturday’s ceremony at Ashland University seemed even more special.

For one, some members of the Class of 2024 did not have a normal high school graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, those graduates were able to truly embrace the occasion with their loved ones after missing out four years ago.

Secondly, this marked one of the largest classes in AU history with more than 1,600 degrees conferred – 738 undergraduates received their bachelor’s degrees, plus 516 associate degrees, 370 master’s degrees and 19 doctorate degrees were awarded. The group consisted of both December 2023 and May 2024 graduates.

And, it marked a time to reflect on all that was accomplished during AU President Carlos Campo’s nine-year administration. Campo is concluding his tenure at the university and will officially become CEO of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., in June.

Prior to the keynote address, Campo was feted by Jim Hess, chair of the AU Board of Trustees. Hess noted many of Campo’s and his wife Karen’s achievements, including the construction of the 125,000-square-foot Niss Athletic Center where AU commencements now take place. Saturday’s occasion offered plenty of room for family and friends to cheer on the large class and the ability to stay dry from the drizzle outside.

Hess also used the occasion to announce that one of the Campo’s first projects at the university, the development of a space on the east side of Jack and Deb Miller Chapel, will be named the Campo Prayer Garden moving forward. Also, a Chapel Prayer Garden Endowment has been established.

Campo, who has always presided over the ceremony as one of his presidential duties, then delivered the commencement speech for the first time. His theme was to “hold fast”—an old phrase that encourages one to stay true to the “things in your life that are critical or important to you.” He explained it through the lens of Hamlet, one of his favorite Shakespearean characters.

“When everyone was pushing (Hamlet) to change, he knew it pushed him farther away from his purpose,” Campo said.

Relating it back to modern day, Campo continued, “Hold fast to Ashland University, hold fast to your alma mater. Hold fast to those who you love. It sounds easy, but it can be hard. And, hold on to the eternal. We are temporal and eternal. There is something beyond this. As you hold on to the eternal, as you hold on to that which feels far away, make sure that time, that investment you’re making is pushing you to be better.”

Several others delivered remarks during the ceremony, including Ashland Mayor Matt Miller and graduate Zoe Webb, who spoke on behalf of the Class of 2024.

Miller, an AU alumnus, compared the investment in an AU education to the millions of dollars being wagered on the Kentucky Derby. “This one comes with guaranteed returns,” he said. And, he asked the graduates to pray for wisdom in how to “best apply the knowledge and skills that (you’ve) been given here at Ashland University … to impact your neighbors, your families, your community and our world forever.”

Valedictorian Zoe Webb speaking at 2024 commencement

Webb, an exercise science and psychology double major from Centerburg, Ohio, reflected on the challenges her classmates faced, starting their undergraduate careers with the unknowns and stresses related to the pandemic. But by “sticking it out,” Webb said the Class of 2024 came away with three characteristics they all now share: “perseverance, grit and passion.” She added, “As we all move on to our next chapters of our lives, I hope you are able to carry those three things with you … (and) cherish all of the memories that Ashland University has given us.”

As valedictorian of the Spring 2024 graduates, Webb was one of four students recognized individually. Camden Edwards, of Sunbury, Ohio, was the salutatorian of the Class of 2024 having completed his integrated science studies. Jason Meers, a communication studies major from Cedar City, Utah, and Leah DeBracy, who stayed in her hometown (Ashland) and majored in music education, were the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of the December 2023 graduates.

Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.