What They Said
The full text of remarks delivered by our Commencement speakers are available by clicking on each name. Following are excerpts.
Janet Lucas Whitman '59
Chair, Board of Trustees
"And what has brought us all here today? On this occasion we celebrate the achievements of our seniors and officially send them into the wide world. There is some rough terrain out there and the challenges are daunting, but we are counting on these graduates to move ahead and help us make positive change. That's where critical thinking, determination, and creativity—attributes that lie at the heart of a Skidmore education—come into play. At Skidmore, we call it "creative thought at work," and the world needs plenty of it."
Philip A. Glotzbach
"For each of you graduates, today marks an important way station in your personal journey from adolescence to adulthood. We human beings have learned that such significant moments of transition come deeply invested with meaning born of their inherent ambiguity: Inevitably there is a sense of loss, as you leave behind the now familiar campus, your friends, the faculty, coaches, and others who have shaped this community as you have experienced it. This day is also fraught with uncertainty about an unknown future. And yet these feelings are counterbalanced by an awareness of the horizon of limitless possibility that opens up before you.
"Perhaps as a way of exorcising the ambivalence we feel about our transitions, we dress them in symbolism: The bagpipers who led the majority of you into the Opening Convocation in September of your Freshman year today reappear to lead you through your final moments as Skidmore students and then, at the end of this ceremony, out toward your new life as Skidmore alumni. Four years ago at that Opening Convocation, you wore your class t-shirt, representing the bonds you would establish with your classmates. Today the friendships you have made will remain with you for the rest of your lives, and your bachelor's gown and accompanying regalia are the outward signs of your hard won academic accomplishments.
"On this occasion, we don these ornate trappings of academia to remind us all that we participate in an activity that has a rich and abiding history. This form of dress hearkens back to the medieval university, reminding us that for many centuries, human beings have honored the process of education. They also remind us that yours is one of many generations of young people who have come to the academy seeking both wisdom and preparation for a productive and meaningful life. Those of us on stage wear our own academic regalia to remind you that we too have traveled this path. This is your moment of transition, but you can take a measure of comfort in the fact that we and many others have gone this way before you.
"And so we celebrate this day with you, and in doing so we honor both your achievements and your promise."
American biographer whose books have won multiple awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Washington: A Life, and the National Book Award for The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance.
"The most interesting lives are filled with …improbable plot twists, with baffled intentions leading to new syntheses and a much deeper fulfillment elsewhere. The would-be actor who ends up a lawyer – the would-be lawyer who ends up as an actor—each will bring a unique perspective to bear on his or her new work. Life has a wonderful way of disrupting all of our tidy plans and, just when we thought we had hit bottom, bringing something newer and fresher and better into being. The main point is that no experience in life, however disastrous it may seem at the time, is ever truly wasted. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said (and what would a graduation speech be without a quote from Emerson?): "Nature is a rag merchant who works up every shred and end into new creations."
"The larger pattern of our lives, the figure hidden in the carpet, will only emerge as the years go by. So don't prejudge your life. Don't give up too soon if things don't seem to be working out exactly as planned…Destiny may well have something lying in store for you that goes far beyond the wildest hopes that you have on this, your glorious graduation day. Take it from one who knows."
Suzanne Corbet Thomas '62
Chair of the Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2008 and the ultimate Skidmore ambassador. Thomas has worked tirelessly on behalf of the College and has provided leadership in numerous volunteer roles, including the highly successful Creative Thought Bold Promise Campaign.
"The liberal arts education that you have received--always with the very special "Skidmore Brand" sprinkled over everything you have experienced here--has given you, as it did me, the tools to create and celebrate your uniqueness. Importantly, it has given you the self confidence to pause and listen to your own voice. With that self confidence guided by that inner voice, you can 'unleash' who you are.
"Listen to that 'unique' voice. That's where your strength lies. Follow it and make a life that matters.
"Your Skidmore education makes you special and different form the person next to you. Embrace that difference with confidence. Be confident your Skidmore liberal arts education will serve you well. It will help you face the inevitable challenges ahead.
"You will think in broader terms. You will work well in groups. You will contemplate issues from all points of view. You will learn from history. And you will face the realities of life on a rational and ethical basis.
" With that Skidmore self confidence you have gained, you can "think big" and, in the words of Steve Jobs, 'make a dent in the universe.'"
Melvis Langyintuo '12
President, Class of 2012
My final reminder to the Class of 2012 is that today is not just about us. Although you will get enough praise for graduating over the next few weeks, there are so many individuals who have made this day possible. So, please join me in thanking our families, friends, and the Skidmore administration, staff, and faculty for giving us the knowledge and experience.... guidance, mentorship and support,... as well as the confidence to write the collective 627 chapters in our book, the Legendary Class of Skidmore... Class of 2012!"
Logan D. Brenner and Jonathan T. Zeidan
Senior Gift Chairs, Class of 2012
Grace Mary Burton
Associate Professor of Spanish
"Your life has been perfectly filled--until now. Now you face an uncertain future, for all futures are uncertain. Now you will have to make choices, choices that will begin to distinguish your life from those of your peers, choices that will send your life in one direction as opposed to another, choices that will entail loss. And it is this loss—this immeasurable nothing—that will ultimately give your life shape and dimension…
"You have spent your years here studying nothing, its presence, its power, and, its possibilities. If it is nothing that allows us to relate one thing to another, it is also nothing that allows us to find deeper connections and discover more profound truths. You have only to look at the posters that dot the walls of Tisch and Dana to know that this is true. But what you have learned here is no mere theoretical exercise, for it will be your ability to integrate the invisible, immeasurable, but not unknowable nothings into your life that will come to define who you are. Others will undoubtedly measure your life against the outward benchmarks of success from the degrees you earn to the titles you hold to the salary you command. But it will be the commitments you make together with the losses those commitments entail that will allow you to know yourself. For make no mistake: to commit is to forego other roads, other possibilities, other lives. To commit is to embrace [acknowledge] the nothings that lie lurking among the choices we make.
"You have worked hard; you have achieved much. You are accomplished but not complete. Now you must find the courage to embrace the nothing you have heard so much about here. Silence and space, and—yes—even disappointment and loss. These are the nothings that will that will in time force you conceive of life in a different way; they are the nothings that will put your life on a different path. They are the nothings that will allow you to achieve . . . wisdom."
Gail M. Dudack '70, P '11
President, Alumni Association
"Graduation can be a bittersweet day as you prepare to leave your friends and professors. But I want to let you know that your time on campus was really just the beginning of your Skidmore experience. The Alumni Association offers you a path to many new Skidmore friendships and new experiences. It can be a way receive (and some day to give) career and life mentoring from fellow alumni. Or, if you are like me, the alumni association is simply a way to meet and have fun!
But being connected and being a skidmore alum is not a spectator sport. As fellow alumni we hope you will give your time, and your resources, so skidmore can continue to grow stronger. A strong and vibrant Skidmore network adds value to your degree and will assure that skidmore will continue to attract the best and the brightest, just as it did you."