“You all have the ability to create a future that is beyond our imaginations. When I look out at all of you, I see and I feel the power of the collective-agents of change in our society. And it is beautiful and exciting to behold,” said Hobart and William Smith Commencement Speaker Dr. Cheryl L. Dorsey during her address on Sunday.
The Harvard trained physician and president of Echoing Green called upon the Classes of 2016 to contemplate the significance of their service experiences and how those experiences can help them to impact the future.
It is through community service, Dorsey said, that one strengthens “the muscles” of personal responsibility, civic participation and a justice-oriented perspective. “It is my sincerest hope that through your experiences here at HWS, you’ve developed all three of these muscles and are prepared to flex them as you begin the next phase of your journeys,” she said.
The Commencement ceremony marked the 191th graduation for Hobart College and the 105th for William Smith College. This year, 236 Hobart students and 260 William Smith students earned bachelor’s degrees, and seven graduate students received their Master of Arts in Teaching. Four students completed the ARC College Experience Program.
Dorsey said the graduates will be able to use their abilities on “the cusp of a new day-a new way.” She said the old systems of the world are changing, and like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly, the graduates are faced with a time of transformation. She said social entrepreneurship and purpose-driven leadership – and bringing good to the world – is a path forward for them.
“Entrepreneurship is one of the most disruptive forces of the status quo. And this should really matter to you because entrepreneurship not only breaks the grip of the old way of doing things but it also helps create a new path forward,” she said.
During his valedictory address, HWS President Mark D. Gearan asked the graduates to reflect on the ways in which they’ve experienced lives of consequence.
“For me, one of the powerful dimensions of our mission to prepare students for a life of consequence is that it is, after all, a highly individualized conclusion to that question,” Gearan said. “Some of you have clearly defined professional plans. Many of you have initial pathways to explore. But all of you have had four years to consider this question – in and out of the classroom – aided by global study, service opportunities in Geneva, leadership roles in athletics and clubs, conversations with faculty, staff, coaches, fellow students and Geneva neighbors.”
He continued: “I urge your ongoing reflection, your ongoing interrogation over the course of your life to this aspiration we have for all of you. It is one that defines the mission of Hobart and William Smith.”
Gearan asked them to consider the journeys of the five honorary degree recipients who during Commencement were each conferred a Doctorate of Humane Letters for their enduring spirit of service which has enhanced local, national and global communities. The recipients are: Dorsey; Judith Hershey Melly L.H.D. ’16, civic leader; Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09, L.H.D. ’16, financial planner and chair of the HWS Board of Trustees; Joan Hinde Stewart L.H.D. ’16, president of Hamilton College; and John F. Collins P’72, P’74, P’84, P’90, GP’09, GP’12, GP’18, L.H.D. ’16, World War II veteran and retired New York City police officer.
Student speakers Connor May ’16 and Kelly Craig ’16 — who received standing ovations – shared the personal stories of the roads that led them to graduation, facing and overcoming challenges, forging friendships and finding success at HWS.
“I think we’ll find that these four years have provided us with invaluable experiences that we will never forget,” May said. “There is no doubt in my mind that all of us will go on to lead lives of consequence. It’s in this tiny little community that we have earned our stripes and it’s in this tiny little community that we will always have a support to fall back on and a campus to love.”
Reflecting on her experience, Craig said: “After teaching me to look inward, HWS taught me to look out, to stand at the top of a hill and see what I could contribute to the world … I encourage you not to look down, but across – to see what academic insights, what creative works, what service opportunities, and what career skills are at the top of the hill that your time and effort at HWS now allow you to see.”
During the ceremony, Zupan presented the Touching the Future Award, which celebrates and honors educators from elementary, middle or high schools who have had an impact on current HWS graduates. The 2016 honorees are Laura Van Niel, a New Vision Medical Careers Program instructor at Geneva General Hospital, in Geneva, N.Y. and Michael Myers, a social studies teacher at Victor Senior High School in Victor, N.Y. Courtney Franceschi ’16 nominated Van Niel and Samuel Menchel ’16 nominated Myers.