“Now is not the time to settle,” said Savannah Guthrie, co-host and chief legal analyst of NBC’s TODAY show, as she delivered the 2012 Commencement Address at Hobart and William Smith Colleges on Sunday morning. Commencement 2012 marked the 187th graduation for Hobart and the 101st for William Smith. The Classes of 2012 included 225 Hobart and 245 William Smith undergraduates, as well as eight MAT students and one Ontario ARC College Experience Certificate.
Advising students to dream big and reach for goals that may at the moment seem unattainable, Guthrie said: “The problem with all of us sometimes is we think of all the reasons we can’t do something before we even try. We think small, so that we might succeed at that small dream we set out for ourselves, in order to avoid failure.”
She urged graduates to “think of what you might accomplish if you directed all that compelling, forceful energy to convincing yourself why you can do it.”
Guthrie concluded by advising graduates to thank their families for their support along the way and shared what she wished she could have told herself as a graduating student: “Even when it looks like you’ve accomplished your dream, sometimes that just means a whole new set of fears and worries and insecurities crop up… And here’s a goal for real life, worth setting and then striving for daily: to be thankful, whatever your circumstances, every step of the way.”
In his Valedictory Address, President Mark D. Gearan noted the Classes of 2012 have “lived in remarkable times.” He cited such significant events as 9/11; technological advancements and the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression as changes that have taken a toll on society in recent years. In doing so, he urged graduates to “fight the forces of skepticism and cynicism,” in part by looking at the exemplary lives of the honorary degree recipients.
Gearan concluded the Commencement ceremony by leaving graduates with a charge, “to utilize the privilege of your newly-minted degrees, an honor only one percent of our world enjoys, to build communities, challenge assumptions and think critically for the betterment of our society.”
Student speakers, Isaias Garcia ’12 and Grace Hunt ’12, also addressed the crowd of students, family and friends on the Hobart Quad.
Garcia shared three things he learned from his late mother, whose emphasis on the importance of education in realizing his dreams has propelled him to earn his degree and make the most of his time at HWS. In illustrating his mother’s first lesson, take advantage of every opportunity and don’t take anything for granted, he quotes former Harvard University President Derek Bok, “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance!”
“We attended a great institution that taught us many valuable things inside and outside of the classroom, like how to effectively articulate our ideas, and understand that the world can be ours with the power of an idea. Most importantly, Hobart and William Smith taught each of us we can be agents of change, and how to live lives of consequence,” he said.
Hunt reflected on the new perspectives gained throughout four years of college and the many memories graduates will take from these years. Noting the spring of 2012 is “a time of exciting technological advancement, cures to disease, ends to war and democratic revolution,” she said. “Our HWS education has given us the agency to embrace this new world with informed opinions, and a greater sense of purpose and of self. Together the Classes of 2012 have witnessed colossal change both on a global and on a personal level… As we ready ourselves to leave this beautiful little enclave – together – to lead lives of consequence, let us remember that there is beauty in change.”
On behalf of the Colleges’ Board of Trustees, Gearan presented honorary degrees to Guthrie; Rosa Blue, a local civil rights leader whose efforts have benefited Geneva for 60 years; James F. Caird ’56 and Cynthia L. Caird, both longtime supporters of the Colleges; Trustee Lang Cook P’99, P’05, a parent of two HWS alums; and Patrick McGuire HON’10, professor of economics, interim provost and dean of faculty.
Chair-elect of the Board of Trustees Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09 honored two educators who have dedicated their lives to the service of others by presenting them with the 2012 Touching the Future Awards. Chris Middleton, social worker and guidance counselor at Frederick Douglass Academy in Brooklyn, N.Y., was nominated by Garcia. Maureen Beck, former art teacher at The Randolph School in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., was nominated by Lucinda Berliner ’12.