Commencement 2011!

A live blog of the College’s 2011 Commencement ceremony.

OK, so it’s a little damp.  No worries!  A rainy day doesn’t stand a chance against 299 of Haverford’s finest.
Violet Brown, executive assistant to President Steve Emerson, is already zipping around campus ensuring that our honorary degree recipients and special guests have what they need.  On a sunny Commencement, you’d see a thousand chairs arrayed behind her on Lloyd Green:

Yep, instead of a thousand chairs on the Green….there are four!  A well-deserved celebration…

8:15  Programs are getting moved from the Communications Office to the Field House.  With last year’s Commencement, we started printing the title of each student’s senior thesis beneath their name.  Haverford is one of the few colleges in the country that expects and encourages each student to complete such a capstone project.  Seeing the titles of such diverse and thoughtful work takes your breath away.
8:51  Ushers are at their stations:

8:55  Check out the following pic, which deserves comment.  Those of you who remember running on the old dirt track or played tennis on wooden courts in the FH will appreciate the new surfaces here.  A couple of years ago, Howard Lutnick ’83 generously provided the funds for both an Olympic-quality track as well as tennis courts paved with the same stuff found at the US Open.  While the benefits of all-weather access are obvious, students point out that facilities like this mean that tennis players don’t have to transition from indoor to outdoor play for the season; runners say that the entire Centennial Conference loves competing at HC because people tend to run their best times here.  Indeed, when it comes to athletic facilities, Howard’s gifts of the Field House surfaces and the Gardner Integrated Athletic Center have transformed the student athlete experience. In the words of mens’ basketball coach  Mike Mucci, “We’ve gone from worst to first!”  Indeed.

9:24  Dean of the College Martha Denney and Registrar Lee Watkins arrange diplomas:

You can imagine the care that goes into both the literal awarding of degrees (e.g. Alison Smith doesn’t wind up with Allison Smyth’s diploma, or Allyson Smith’s, or Allyson Smythe’s for that matter), as well as the underlying academic credential (major, minor, concentration, college honors, departmental honors…) all of which are printed in the Commencement program.   That document was subject to rigorous and incessant updating, checking and rechecking in the days leading up to its printing last Thursday.  Chief ‘checker’ is my colleague Rebecca Raber, whom you know as the Haverblog’s senior correspondent and who is tweeting today’s event.

9:25  The honorary degrees are ready:

9:30  The speaker’s eye view:

9:50  Students arrive at the Old Gym, where they will line up in alphabetical order. (Come to think of it, that was probably one of the very first things they learned when they began their academic odyssey some 16 years ago.  And now?  Next time you see James David Basil McClain, chem/math double major, ask him about Thermally-driven Isotopic Separation by Quantum Tunneling…)

Provost Linda Bell:

10:00  And we’re off!

Following greetings from President Steve Emerson and Prof. Emeritus Aryeh Kosman, Mike Troup ‘11 welcomes the crowd with a funny and heartwarming message that includes references to the ‘great philosopher’ Jon Stewart, midnight trips to the Ardmore Wawa and the humorous realization that all the members of the class of 2011 may have been in the top half of their high school graduating class, but 50% are in the bottom half of the Haverford class of 2011.  “And 100% of you are now Haverford College graduates. Congratulations!”

“How will you make your mark?  It will be different for each one of you,” notes President Emerson, pointing out the dramatically different ways in which our honorary degree recipients have bettered our world.   “You are supremely prepared to find success, meaning and joy.”
Juan Williams ‘76, journalist, introduces our first honorary degree recipient, Dikembe Motumbo.  “He is a man who has said, no, no, no to disease in Africa.  He said no, no, no to the shortage of hospitals in the Congo.  He stood tall in American athletics to say no, no, no and defy the perception of athletes as selfish…and saying ‘yes’ to those in need…”
Motumbo:  “I’d rather be here this morning…than be in a playoff season…I sincerely congratulate you on your achievement.  This wasn’t easy.  I know that your parents, teachers and friends are all proud of you…the future of our society is in your hands.  Education is the key to success.”  He references uprisings across the Arab world, and the role of young people.  “We have the responsibility to provide you with the necessary tools to be good and effective leaders.”  In closing, “What we make in our daily life is a living; but what we give is a life.”
Roger Lane, Prof. Emeritus, introduces Bob Schwartz ‘71.  “To quote Mark Twain, there is no limit to what you can accomplish with the right combination of confidence and ignorance.  I hope that his alma mater did more to enrich his confidence than ignorance…”  He then inventoried the challenges that Schwartz and his colleagues have faced — and overcome — throughout the distinguished history of the Juvenile Law Center, while also pointing out its successes.  “It was the Juvenile Law Center that in 2010 exposed the cruel corruption of the kids-for-cash scandal in which judges in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County got kickbacks to put kids in ‘reformatories’, that last word in quotes…”
Schwartz:  “Thanks.  I’m not going to use my time for rebuttal,” he jokes, then mentions the honor of getting to wear the academic robe that belonged to his friend Steve Cary ‘37, a titanic figure in the history of the College.  “As Americans once again debate the meaning of our social contract…we face a level inequality that would make a stoic weep…what they call an ‘opportunity gap.’  Moral progress, the kind that narrows opportunity gaps, is hard….It depends on you….You are the policy makers of the future and I’m confident your Haverford experience in and out of the classroom will serve you well…The path to success is rarely a straight line….wise parents appreciate their child’s developmental pathway…trust yourselves…trust your children….they have made a zig zag line of 100 tacks to reach these seats.  They will find their way.  My parents are here today; and to them I say, once again, thank you.”
Julie Summerfield, Bookstore Manager, introduces Judy Wicks.  “Interconnectedness is a theme that runs through everything she does…As a restaurateur she learned about factory farming, and the White Dog Cafe became a leader in the local food movement…She moved from running a competitive business to a cooperative one, helping other businesses buy locally…She speaks of combining head and heart to make best possible decisions…and is co founder of a nationwide alliance for  sustainable economies.  Visionary; generous; humanitarian; common good…Judy Wicks defines what we aspire to at Haverford.”
Wicks: “When I think back on my own college graduation, I don’t remember much, it was 42 years ago.  But I do remember what was most on the minds of the class of ’69:  the war in Vietnam, which a previous generation started….As I look out on this fresh new class of graduates, I ask myself what problems have previous generations left for you to solve?  The stakes could not be higher…Our generation’s goal was to save lives, mostly our own; yours is to save life on earth as we know it.  Turn away from continual material accumulation….Learn to grow in new ways, expanding consciousness, increasing knowledge, deepening personal relationships, increasing health, happiness and well being…The collective wealth of clean water to drink, fresh air to breathe, access to fresh healthy food to eat, and a joyful community in which to belong…Our greatest power comes when we protect what we love.”
12:06  Degrees are conferred, followed by closing remarks from Bryn Mawr College President Jane McAuliffe, who quotes from the speech by then-Haverford president Thomas Chase at Bryn Mawr’s inauguration.  In referring to Haverford and Bryn Mawr as ‘twins’, Chase reminded his audience,“Let us not forget we have ends to pursue beyond imparting knowledge.”
And with that, the brass band plays the recessional while the crew from Facilities scrambles to remove chairs so that our all-weather party can begin to rock! Congratulations to the Class of 2011.

President Steve Emerson with 'First Lady' -- and Prof. of Biology -- Jenni Punt, BMC '83.

That's Prof. of Sociology Lisa McCormick at far left.

Prof. of History Linda Gerstein.

Sun! Or at least not rain. So the party moves outside.

All Haverford photo ops lead to Founders Green.

On to the next thing! Well done, good people of HC 2011.