Honoring Rose Ella Weaver ’73

Read Rose Weaver’s honorary degree citation

Rose Weaver ’73 remarks

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Oh my goodness. Good morning, Wheaties one and all. Thank you for this honor.

I grew up in the woods of Georgia. At the age of seven years old, I almost drown in the lake when my grandmother let go of me in the water. “Kick your legs. Move your arms, Rose,” she shouted to me. I kicked as hard as I could, but I went under like a heavy rock, swallowing tons of lake along the way. I was afraid of drowning for the rest of my young life.

What a relief it was to come here, to this beautiful women’s college in New England 1969, and know that I would never have to fear drowning again. Of course, I didn’t know that I would have to pass a swimming test in order to graduate. The day I went to the pool to take the test, I was deathly afraid. I probably would not have applied here if I had known I would have to pass a swimming test. The teacher told me to jump into the deep end. She said it three times. That was the beginning of the test, to dog paddle.

As soon as I found the courage to jump in, I quickly went down. I panicked because I knew I was going to die. Wide-eyed, I hit the bottom of the pool. My legs crouched up and I sprang like a frog as hard as I could, flapping my arms, trying to get to the surface. It would have been fine if it was a flying test, but this was a swimming test. I finally made it back to the surface and I gasped for air. My right arm now had a terrible cramp. I grabbed the stick that the teacher was holding out with her left hand. I grabbed it with my left hand and she pulled me over to the edge of the pool. Trembling with fear, I thought for sure, having been so traumatized, she would immediately see no hope and excuse me. But she looked down into my eyes with a stern face and said, “No one graduates from Wheaton College without passing the swimming test.”

I spent the next four years learning every stroke imaginable. The side stroke, the frog, the backstroke, floating on my back. By senior year, I calmly passed the required swimming test. I would be able to graduate from Wheaton after all to become a Wheatie myself. The lesson in this? It turns out I wasn’t afraid of swimming after all. I was afraid of sinking and drowning. With so many odds already against me, I was afraid of sinking and drowning.

Every time you get that sinking feeling, just realize that what you really need to do is learn how to stay afloat so you can swim unafraid with yourself, with yourselves, and with all kinds of people, in win-win ways. You got that? You got it?

Okay then. See you in the pool.