Four William Smith students received their diplomas during a special HWS Commencement ceremony on Monday following an impressive postseason with Herons lacrosse, which included capturing the Liberty League title and advancing to the second round of the NCAA DIII Women’s Lacrosse Championship.
Surrounded by family, friends and HWS community members in a packed St. John’s Chapel, Geneva Calder ’16, of Toronto, Ont., Hannah Connolly ’16, of Watertown, N.Y., Alexandra O’Hara ’16, of Redding, Conn., and Emily Stratton ’16, of Winchester, Mass., donned caps-and-gowns as President Mark D. Gearan presided over the ceremony with other campus leaders. The four athletes – who each earned Latin Praise – had missed the traditional HWS Commencement on Sunday due to success in the postseason. William Smith earned its first NCAA appearance and first Liberty League title since 2004.
“We undertake this Commencement due to the extraordinary performance and success of our athletes over the weekend,” said Gearan, who also played the piano for the processional and at the ceremony’s end. “To Geneva, Hannah, Alexandra and Emily – they have especially distinguished themselves as athletes and as scholars, leading our William Smith lacrosse team to its most successful season in more than a decade.”
The ceremony coincided with 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.
During her address, Provost and Dean of Faculty Titilayo Ufomata recalled the advice she had shared four years earlier during the President’s Welcome for the Classes of 2016 when they first arrived on campus.
“I urged you to consider the value of your educations,” Ufomata said. “I remember saying, ‘We are counting on you to take advantage of the options provided to you by a liberal arts education, to use it as a platform to participate and to form worlds of experience.'”
Ufomata added: “The Commencement speaker yesterday, Dr. Cheryl Dorsey, opined very succinctly, and in my opinion, powerfully, when she said that the best way to control your future is to create it. You have the knowledge, you have acquired the skills, may you be blessed with courage to use them.”
Following the conferring of the degrees which was presented by William Smith Dean Catherine Gallouët, Chair of the Board of Trustees Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09, L.H.D. ’16 officially welcomed the new graduates to the William Smith Alumnae Association. At Sunday’s ceremony, Zupan was among five who received honorary degrees.
“I am confident that you will go on to accomplish wonderful things, that you will keep your alma mater close to your heart, that you will embody the values of William Smith College, and that you will lead lives of consequence,” she said.
Sending off the graduates with a Valedictory Address, Gearan – as he did with all members of the Classes of 2016 – asked them to consider their journeys ahead.
“Some of you have clearly defined professional plans. Many of you have initial pathways that you’re considering. But all of you have had four years here to reflect and consider this question – in and out of the classroom – certainly on the playing field, through global studies, service opportunities here in Geneva, leadership roles that you’ve played on this campus – in athletics and clubs and in conversations with faculty, staff, coaches, fellow students and Geneva neighbors,” Gearan said. “I would urge your ongoing reflection, and over the course of your life, interrogation over time to this aspiration that we have for all of you. It is one that defines the mission of Hobart and William Smith – a life of consequence.”
The ceremony concluded with a benediction from Chaplain Maurice Charles.
“May you have the courage today to live the lives you love,” Charles said. “To postpone your dreams no longer, but do at last what you came here for, and waste your hearts on fear, no more. Remember who you are proud Herons – stretch-wide your graceful wings, and soar!”