Meet the 2021 Student Commencement Speakers

Henry Hicks and Joshua Rhodes will address the Class of 2021.

May 10, 2021

Communications Staff

Composite of Oberlin graduation caps.
Photo credit: Office of Communications

On Friday, May 14, Oberlin will host an in-person celebration with two ObieSafe ceremonies at Bailey Field: one at 9 a.m. and the other at 2 p.m. Henry Hicks '21 and Joshua Rhodes '21 will address the graduating class in their respective ceremonies. A livestream of both events will be available on the commencement page

Henry Hicks (9 a.m. ceremony)

Henry Hicks IV ’21 is a creative writing and comparative American studies major with a concentration in identity and diversity. He has worked in intern and staff positions for U.S. Representative Jim Cooper (TN-5), U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (OH-D), The Equity Alliance, and as a field organizer on the Kamala Harris For the People presidential campaign. Involved in a number of campus activities and organizations, Hicks worked as a Peer Advising Leader coordinator, a resident assistant, and a facilitator for Uncovering COVID-19, the summer course offered to incoming first-year students. Hicks recently worked as coeditor-in-chief at The Plum Creek Review, Oberlin’s oldest literary magazine, and has been a student representative on the college’s Equity and Diversity, and Admissions and Financial Aid committees. He has served as chair of Oberlin College and Conservatory Student Senate for three semesters, where he has advocated for bold approaches to racial justice, educational access and equity, and an effective campus response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hicks currently is a student representative on the Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity. Hicks was recognized for his work and commitment to public service by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation in 2020 when he was selected as Tennessee’s sole recipient for the nation’s premier graduate fellowship for young public service leaders. Hicks calls both Nashville, Tennesee, and Atlanta, Georgia, home and looks forward to settling in Washington, DC, after graduation.

Joshua Rhodes (2 p.m. ceremony)

Joshua Emmanuel Rhodes ’21 is a classical double bassist studying under the tutelage of Tracy Rowell, who is teacher of double bass at the Oberlin Conservatory. Born and raised in Fayetteville North Carolina, Joshua transferred to Oberlin from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he studied for two years under the tutelage of North Carolina Symphony Bassist, Craig Brown. A Bonner Scholar, Rhodes has found great meaning through his work with the Oberlin community as a tutor and mentor to middle school and high school students as well as a docent and research intern at the Oberlin Heritage Center.

A member of several student organizations, Rhodes is communications director for Oberlin Student Senate, a conservatory peer advising leader, and member of the Oberlin Christian Fellowship. He is also on the swimming and diving team and is a member of the Black Student Athlete Group.

As a musician, Rhodes has a great love for playing classical chamber music. He has played in countless chamber music groups and likes to challenge the idea that double bassists can’t be chamber musicians out of having a lack of accessible chamber music repertoire with the bass. Rhodes enjoys the teamwork that arises naturally in chamber music environments. Rhodes has also taken up playing early music, playing the tenor viol, violone, and baroque double bass in the Oberlin Baroque Orchestra and has Oberlin Viol Consort.

Rhodes also finds great joy in reading classic American literature, engaging in long-winded conversation, practicing yoga, and shopping. After completing his studies at Oberlin, Rhodes will pursue a master’s degree in classical double bass performance at The Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His long-term goal is to innovate the way in which the arts are managed and taught through engaging in collaboration with other fields and industries such as athletics. Rhodes has found that our perspective fields have more in common than we like to think, and he would like to focus his energy, knowledge, and skills towards cultivating cross-industry connectivity.

You may also like…

2021 Commencement Celebrations will be held May 14

May 7, 2021

New York Times Chief White House Correspondent Peter Baker will give the keynote Commencement address and receive an honorary doctor of fine arts. The college will also present honorary degrees to journalist, novelist, and film critic Renata Adler, composer John Harbison, and Paul Quinn College President Michael J. Sorrell.
Peter Baker.

'Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution'

January 15, 2021

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day we look back at the civil rights activist's visits to Oberlin College, and the powerful 1965 commencement speech he gave in Tappan Square.
Two men wearing graduation caps and robes look out into a crowd.