Graduates and their families were driven inside by the elements, but the pomp and circumstance, the family pride, and the significance of the degrees earned was not lost
May 11, 2003 GENEVA, N.Y.—Three hundred-eighty four graduates (208 William Smith women and 176 Hobart men) participated in Commencement activities in the Colleges’ Field House today. It was the 178th Commencement for Hobart College and the 92nd for William Smith College. The ceremony, originally scheduled to be held outside on the Hobart Quadrangle, was moved indoors when thunderstorms threatened.
Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, gave the Commencement address in addition to receiving an honorary degree from the Colleges in recognition of her groundbreaking work in journalism for more than 35 years. Mitchell’s words to the graduates were sincere. She noted that there were few times in life when people gather for such an occasion as college graduation and that it should be given significance. She challenged the graduates to “live life enthusiastically, to be passionate, and to lead a committed life, one in which service was a noteworthy part.” Mitchell also related some of the events of the past two years and the differences they have made to how people in the United States perceive their lives. Her recommendation: that graduates should always question–question themselves, question political figures, and question the media. That they should not take their lives for granted.
Mark D. Gearan, president of the Colleges, spoke of the four years he and his family had spent with these classes, having both arrived on campus the same summer, in 1999. He reminisced about how they had grown and matured together while sharing common experiences. He also urged the graduates to step up to the responsibility of being 21st-century citizens, noting that over the past decades interest and participation in governmental activities has dramatically decreased, and that the nation would suffer if this continued. He quoted Ghandi in suggesting that each graduate “be the change you want to see in the world.”
Student speaker Marie Fiero of Hilton, N.Y., presented “Live everyday as if it were a Frisbee day on the quad!” “So my goal for all of us is to become those Frisbee players on the quad. Become the people who are doing something, not those who are merely watching. After graduation, become as involved as possible in your field. Do not allow others to do the work and achieve their goals while you watch and pretend to study on the quad. Take charge of the world around you instead of simply watching it on CNN.”
“So the world is your own Hobart and William Smith quad and your diploma is a Frisbee. Get off your beach blanket, kick off your sandals and ask to play. I promise you, the world will let you.”
Hsin-Wei Liu, a native of Taiwan, delivered the Hobart student address. In it he explained, “The Chinese gesture, the bow, symbolizes respect, acknowledgement, gratitude, and appreciation.” He then expressed those emotions — “to the professional staff, and many others who support this institution to provide a safe and comforting community, I bow to you; to the Hobart students who have dedicated their time and effort to improving this institution, I bow to you; to the William Smith students who have protested against the oppressions created by the powers of a greater community, I bow to you; and to those faculty members who have challenged our minds, and given us the confidence to take this next step, I bow to you. We could not have made it without you. It is time to take this next step down the road of our destiny, into a world different from what our parents told us about, and into an economy our professors warned us about.”
Other honorees received the L.L.D., including:
Thomas E. Tighe, who is chief executive officer and president of Direct Relief International. Last year Direct Relief International provided $87 million in critical medical supplies to people in 57 countries. From 1993 to 2001, Tighe served first as Associate General Counsel and then as Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer for the Peace Corps. From 1989 to 1993, he served as a counsel on the United States Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Elizabeth “Lib” Eaton White graduated from William Smith in 1933 and went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from what is now the Columbia School of Social Work. Her career spanned more than 40 years, during which time she worked in child welfare agencies in several states before returning back to Geneva in 1957. In 1962 White founded and became the first executive director of the Family Counseling Service of the Finger Lakes. Currently, Family Counseling Service assists more than 1,500 residents and exists in four communities in the Finger Lakes region.
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The Finger Lakes Times printed a story May 12 on graduation ceremonies, titled “Graduation must go on … Thunderstorms force HWS ceremony indoors”.