Dr. Lisa Abeshaus ’84, P’19, a New Jersey-based obstetrician-gynecologist, delivered the alumna speech at the Annual Senior Welcome Toast on Friday. Abeshaus shared how she was struck by the “modern updates” that continue to shape and grow the Hobart and William Smith campus. Through her evolving relationship with the Colleges, as a student, then alum and now parent of a graduated member of the Classes of 2019, she has realized the impact engaged alumnae make on the community.
“The strength, well-being and power of this institution is reliant on you staying involved, coming back and giving back to this community,” Abeshaus said, recalling how the Scandling Campus Center broke ground during her senior year at the Colleges. Since her graduation in 1984, the Colleges have also built Stern Hall, the Bozzuto Boathouse, Caird Hall, de Cordova Hall, the Katherine D. Elliott Studio Arts Center, the Seneca Room and the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts – for Abeshaus, they serve as physical reminders of alums’ impact.
Coverage of Commencement 2019, including photo galleries and videos can be found here.
Abeshaus earned her medical degree with distinction from Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and trained for her residency at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Program, where she later served as a faculty professor. During her remarks, she reflected on the influence Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell’s legacy, the first woman in the United States to receive her medical degree after graduating from Geneva Medical College – the precursor to Hobart College, had on her life.
“She was a personal inspiration for me, to go on and earn my medical degree, and to serve as an archetype for challenging standards, setting new precedents and following your own dreams,” Abeshaus said. She encouraged William Smith students to follow Blackwell’s example and to take “curiosity, independence and confidence” with them into their next adventure.
After an introduction from Associate Vice President for Alumnae Relations Kathy Killius Regan ’82, P’13, President of the Alumnae Association Julie Bazan ’93 presented the association’s awards and class announcements. For their leadership and service to their alma mater, Maeve Kline ’19, Caitlin Lasher ’19, Liza Plummer ’19, Shaahida Samuel ’19 and Sarah Walters ’19 were recognized.
William Smith Dean Lisa Kaenzig P’22 offered the traditional Dean’s Toast, in which she encouraged the “extraordinary Class of 2019” to take the pop singer Beyonce’s advice and, “Go out into the world and take your power. You have earned it and you certainly deserve it.”
Ifunanya Okeke ’19, president of William Smith Class of 2019, wrote the student speech. Because of a case of laryngitis, her remarks were delivered by Tamira Jackson-Lofton ’19. Okeke remembered a Thanksgiving meal at the Colleges shared with her friends, in which each student brought a food symbolic of their cultural heritage. The event now serves as a powerful memory of how each person brings “multitudes to the table.”
Seniors also received their final William Smith charm bracelet and planted a tree to commemorate their bond as a class. The revival of the “good luck tree” and tree planting tradition dates back nearly to the College’s founding by nurseryman William Smith and served as a landmark for alums like Alta Boyer ’36, who returned for the Welcome.
Closing remarks were delivered by Chaplain Rev. Nita Byrd and Director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life Julianne Miller.