GENEVA, N.Y.-Gwen Ifill, the moderator and managing editor of PBS' “Washington Week,” called on the Hobart and William Smith Classes of 2001 to reach beyond their immediate aspirations in the Commencement address, titled “Exceeding Your Dreams” that she gave this morning outdoors on the Colleges quadrangle.
“You can have a lot in this world if you dream. Shine some light into a few dark corners. When all is said and done, you can exceed your dreams,” said Ifill, also asking the graduates to participate in government by voting, and questioning and working with their elected officials.
During the two-hour celebration, undergraduate degrees were given to 206 William Smith women and 210 Hobart men. Ifill received an honorary degree from the Colleges during the ceremony, along with Congressman Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, of Morristown, N.J., a 1969 Hobart graduate; Sister Mary Turley, founder of the Flax Trust; and former HWS Trustees John Horvath, a partner for 24 years at Arthur Andersen & Company of Rochester, N.Y., and Bruce N. Bensley, a 1951 graduate of Hobart College and trustee of the Fannie E. Rippel Foundation.
President Mark D. Gearan. in his valedictory speech, advised the graduates to direct the pace of their lives and work in today's high-paced electronic world, rather than to let their lives be directed by technology. He also urges them to become active in life's arenas, just as the honorary degree recipients have done. Quoting from The Little Prince, he reminded the graduates that “what is essential is invisible to the eye,” Gearan said.
Student speakers included Leo Rhodes III, of Henrietta, N.Y., and Jillian Oberfield, of Glen Mills, Pa. In his talk titled “The Value of Our Experience” Rhodes challenged his classmates to make good use of their liberal arts experience.
“The education that we have received has instilled in us a vision of a better world and has provided us with the tools that we will need in order to make that vision a reality. On this day, let us make a promise to ourselves that we carry on the Hobart and William Smith tradition of excellence by using the tools that we have been given to change the world around us,” Rhodes said. “I challenge us all to make good on this promise, so when that day comes when we reflect back on our lives and accomplishments, we will be able to say to ourselves: “I have realized and made good use of my liberal arts experience.”
Oberfield quoted Nelson Mandela in her address titled “Make it Count.”
“It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?… [Glory] is in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others,” Oberfield said quoting Mandela and concluded by saying. “It is my wish for us that we continue to find our own light and extend it beyond our close borders.”
Hobart and William Smith Colleges are coordinate, private, liberal arts institutions, located in Geneva, N.Y. C the heart of the Finger Lakes region. The Colleges, which have a combined enrollment of 1,800, offer a remarkably broad array of majors and minors, with a cross-disciplinary flavor intended to better inform both professional and intellectual pursuits. The Colleges are noted also for an ambitious emphasis on international study, and for their programs in community service. Hobart College for men and William Smith College for women share faculty, facilities, and curriculum, but maintain separate dean's offices, athletic programs, student governments, and traditions.