Being twins, Justin and Joel Rittenhouse learned to share growing up: toys, birthdays, even, in one sense, each other’s face.
Now, the 21-year-olds share another distinction — Eastern Mennonite University graduate. The brothers were among the more than 400 Royals who received diplomas on Sunday during commencement exercises at the liberal arts school.
EMU President Loren Swartzendruber conferred 426 degrees and certificates on graduates during Sunday’s ceremony, including 306 bachelor’s degrees and 97 graduate degrees.
“This is your day,” Swartzendruber told the graduates, before telling their families, “our students know full well your support has been an integral part of their success.”
For the Rittenhouses, of Green Lane, Pa., attending EMU runs in the family. Their parents and a brother also graduated from the university, which factored into their decision to choose the institution.
The brothers have much in common and often were mistaken for one another when they first arrived on campus.
“People realized we have our own little quirks,” Justin said.
But they do have their differences.
Joel described himself as the dominant one of the two, to which Justin agreed. Naturally.
“I’ve always liked to work with kids one-on-one instead of [in] a traditional classroom,” he said.
“I have no immediate plans, but I plan to stay in the area and pick something up,” he said.
Sunday’s commencement speaker was Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Roy Disney and grandniece of Walt Disney.
Disney is a filmmaker and philanthropist whose credits include the production of “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” a film documenting the Liberian peace movement led by Leymah Gbowee.
Gbowee, an EMU alumna, received the 2011 Nobel Peace prize for her work in organizing the women of Liberia to demand peace in their wartorn West African country.
Disney said women can play an important role in bringing an end to violence in the world by getting involved in the economic and political realms where decisions to go to war are made.
“We have to have the courage,” she said, “to imagine a different world is possible.”