Members of the William Smith Class of 2016 became the first to bring back a decades-old custom, recalled by 101-year-old Alta Boyer ’36 as part of her well-wishes for the graduating Herons, when they processed to one of the Hill’s towering trees, touching it for good luck.
Revived at this year’s 39th Annual Senior Welcome and Toast, the tradition took place following the annual tree planting behind Smith Hall. Assistant Vice President for Advancement Kathy Killius Regan ’82, P’13 shared some of Boyer’s reflections, noting a tree on the Hill that once had a shiny spot on it from the touch of so many seeking good fortune.
“It’s the phenomenal alumnae of this College and traditions like this that make it so great,” Regan said at the ceremony’s opening which was held in the L. Thomas Melly ’52 Lobby of the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts. She called attention to the alumnae representing seven decades who had gathered to congratulate and welcome the Class of 2016 before Commencement.
In her address, William Smith Class President Hailey Dietrich ’16 asked her classmates not to forget their time as Herons at their alma mater at “the top of Seneca Lake.”
“Take what you have learned and fly with it. Make stops along the way, help others and see the world. You will find your way,” Dietrich said. “Take lessons from our fellow William Smith alumnae who have reached back to support us and who have served as role models.”
The Alumnae Association Toast was delivered by Robin Savits Cooper ’87, P’16, P’19, who welcomed the graduates to a “sisterhood of more than 10,000 alumnae.” Cooper noted that 70 percent of the William Smith Class of 2016 has joined the Stewardson Society through their donations, congratulating the leadership of the Stewardson tri-chairs including her daughter Hannah Cooper ’16 and Afrika Nora Owes ’16.
Earlier, Cooper and her husband, Trustee Edward R. Cooper ’86, P’16, P’19, offered a keynote address during Commencement Rehearsal on the Quad.
William Smith Dean Catherine Gallouët asked the graduates to remember where they came from, and to keep in their hearts the people and places around them – for the path forward will change. “There is a community here that has gone through the same evolution, that community understands where you’re from and once you receive your diploma Sunday morning, it will be your village, it will be where you come home to, it might open a path for you – it will support and sustain you,” she said.
In recognition of her leadership and service to students and alumnae, Dana Williams ’16 was honored with the Judith Haslam Cross ’52 Award; she also was named Class Correspondent. The Elizabeth Herendeen Odell Book Award was presented to Karly Wagner ’16 in appreciation of her contributions to the Alumnae Association and William Smith.
Associate Director of Alumni and Alumnae Relations Chrissy Bennett West ’94, the immediate past president of the Alumnae Association, presented the awards.
At the ceremony, the seniors were presented with a bracelet and the senior pine tree charm. The pine tree is in recognition of our nurseryman founder, William Smith. “We’d like for you to think of your pine tree charm as a rite of passage, as your membership card to the exclusive club that you’ve earned your way into, the Alumnae Association,” Regan said.