Ziegler encourages grads to bestow gifts on others

May 20, 2012
Contact:
Karen B. Eldridge, Director of Communications
865.981.8207; karen.eldridge@maryvillecollege.edu

Every talent is significant. Recognize your gifts and pass them on.

That was the message Delores Bowen Ziegler ’73 passed along to members of Maryville College’s Class of 2012 during Commencement exercises on Sunday. She titled her address to the approximately 200 graduates in attendance “What’s in a Gift?”

Gifted with an incredible voice that has taken her to the stage of numerous opera houses throughout the world, Ziegler, who also received the College’s honorary doctor of music during the ceremony, told graduates that her talent is her voice but not her sole defining attribute.

“My singing voice, while a gift, is very much like the athlete’s gift in that it is ephemeral, short-lived,” she said. “If I believed that singing was the only thing I could ‘gift’ to others, it would be a bleak life for me from here on out.

“Sometimes when we make the grumpy cashier smile or acknowledge a stranger or give hope to a despairing friend, these are gifts, my friends, that can be given away freely and never diminish,” she added.

Ziegler, who graduated from the College in 1973 and currently serves as the chair of the voice/opera division at the University of Maryland’s School of Music, shared a story of how a former Maryville College professor, the late Victor Schoen, passed on to her a life-changing gift.

Schoen, who taught Ziegler music theory, was also an “avid opera fan,” she told the crowd, and he invited students to his home every Saturday to listen to the Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcasts.

“His wife, Salley, a talented pianist and also a professor at MC, would usually bake a lemon meringue pie, so we rarely missed a Saturday. Victor Schoen’s passion for the voice and opera in particular, was so contagious that one couldn’t help but be infected by it,” she said. “He developed an Interim topic that culminated in a trip to New York City to experience the art form live at the Metropolitan Opera. For me, this week was life altering. It grabbed me by the throat, so to speak, and I was hooked. I couldn’t stop singing and began to pursue the study of opera performance.”

Ziegler said that being willing to share her gift with others opened the world to her and allowed her to experience different cultures, learn new languages, meet interesting people and surround herself with “glorious, divine music.”

“ … For me, this story exemplifies the rhythm of the gift. In giving so freely of his time, and I’m sure some of his own money, Victor Schoen allowed his passion to flow freely to us, his students, who in turn spread our talents abroad. The uncomplicated giving of one’s self, of one’s passions, of one’s talents, not hoarding, but freely giving, in itself leads to an abundance of gifts.”

She concluded with a quote from Mother Teresa, imploring new graduates to forgive, be kind, be honest, be happy, do good and give their best.

During commencement exercises, recognition was also given to faculty and staff members for outstanding service during the 2011-2012 academic year.

Dr. John Nichols, professor of mathematics, Dr. Terry Bunde, professor of chemistry, and Dr. Peggy Cowan, professor of religion, were recognized for their retirements and election to the status of “professor emeritus” at the College.

Bunde was also recognized as runner-up for the Outstanding Teacher Award. In presenting the award, Dr. Barbara Wells, vice president and dean of the College, cited the chemistry professor’s excellence in teaching in the sciences, as well as in developing other courses that garnered college-wide interest and positively impacted students.

“He is a model advisor and mentor who has helped scores of students find their paths to further post-graduate education,” she said. “He has made connections with students that have lasted for decades. “

The Outstanding Teacher Award, the recipient of which is nominated by juniors and seniors at the College, went to Dr. Sam Overstreet, the Ralph S. Collins Professor in the Humanities and professor of English. In presenting the award, Wells described Overstreet, previously a three-time runner-up for the award, as a “scholar and a gentleman.”

“This year’s Outstanding Teacher was chosen by students who appreciated the breadth of his knowledge and the depth of his wisdom,” Wells said. “Students in both core and major classes respect him as a model of integrity and good character.

“ … Whether using Middle English in a lesson on Chaucer or teaching Advanced Rhetoric and Grammar, this professor demonstrates a love of the English language.”

Receiving the Nancy B. Hunter Outstanding Staff Award was Vivian Hill, residence life office manager. Bruce Holt, director of counseling, was named winner of the Martha Hess Outstanding Administrator Award. The Learning Center’s academic support coordinator, Noah Bowman, was presented the Sharon A. Murphy Crane Distinguished Service Award.

In his charge to the Class of 2012, Maryville College President Dr. William T. “Tom” Bogart told the graduates to depart from the College with more than a diploma.

“Leave here transformed by your experience and dedicated to following and demonstrating the will of God through your thoughts and actions,” he said. “As you continue in your journey, please remember that you always have a home here where Chilhowee’s lofty mountains pierce the Southern blue. Come back and share with us your successes and struggles, as you have done during your time here. Be the inspiration for the next person the way that others have inspired you. Say ‘thank you’ to those who have helped you during your time here, and let us thank you for how you have helped us.

“The Lord bless you and keep you as you continue your journey,” the president said as he concluded his remarks to the new graduates.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2014 semester is 1,213.