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Williams Commencement 2017: Full Ceremony

Williams Commencement 2017: Full Ceremony

Mr. Sheriff, pray, give us order. This meeting will now come to order. Greetings of peace and welcome on this felicitous
occasion on a beautiful morning. At this juncture where accomplishment meets
anticipation, may the source of mercy, wisdom, hope, and peace be with us as we send our
graduating students ahead to shape and repair and illuminate our world. You who are graduating today, amid your inquiry
and research, your setbacks and successes at Williams, may you realize that you stand
poised to make profound contributions whether in underserved communities, in the pursuit
of justice and equity, or in the promotion of advancements in all fields of noble, intellectual,
and creative endeavor. For those of you who have come to support
the graduates, may you recognize that as much as this celebration belongs to this graduating
class, the achievements we honor today belong also to you as the families and teachers and
coaches and mentors who have paved their way. A parent or guardian who struggled and toiled
to get one through school. The sibling or friend or counselor or chaplain
to the college who gave of their whole being to accompany one through the rough and smooth. May you recognize the impact your sacrifices
have had and may that recognition evoke gratitude in you and those who have been nurtured by
your support? As the poet wrote, “Who are we to be so bold
and presumptuous as to walk through the vast mystery of this day and to receive countless
blessings of life? Who are we if our hearts do not bend irresistibly
to gratitude?” May our hearts indeed incline towards gratitude
today for together through both our insights and our incomprehension we have gained much
in the journey to becoming wiser and more whole. Let us rejoice in the precious friendships
we have made, our treasured memories, and our anticipation for the discoveries in the
now and still to come. Amen. Amen. Please be seated. I know it feels like commencement must always
be the same every single year, but in fact we’re in a new venue where we haven’t done
this before. As you know, seating is really tight. I think the beautiful weather has contributed
to that. Please make room if you can, if we can get
some more people in that would be wonderful. I’d ask you to raise your hand if you have
space next to you so that people can see that. We also do, I want to remind you, have simulcast
venues in Brooks-Rogers Auditorium, the Presser Choral Hall, and in Wege. Please ask the staff for directions if you
need that. Thank you. On behalf of the college I’d like to open
these ceremonies by extending a warm welcome to all of you: Students, families, friends,
and distinguished guests. We are delighted to see you here and grateful
that you have gathered from far and near for this wonderful day. I’d like to offer special thanks to Sheriff
Bowler for his special kickoff to the ceremony. With this, the college’s 228th commencement,
we continue the tradition of flying the flags of each of the 53 countries represented by
this year’s graduates and honorees. Colorful and inspiring symbols of the world
from which our students have gathered. One of the nicest aspects of the weekend is
being able to watch our graduates share moments with faculty and staff who have done so much
to make their Williams experience productive and rewarding. I would ask, therefore, that we recognize
all members of the Williams’s faculty and staff with our thanks. Not a single graduate would be here today
without the support and encouragement of many people. I ask that we similarly recognize all of our
students’ parents, other family members, and friends who are with us here today. Four guests we are particularly pleased to
welcome this weekend are the recipients of the Olmsted Prize for excellence in secondary
school teaching who were honored yesterday at Ivy Exercises. We will ask our recipients to please stand
and ask our audience to hold applause until all the names are announced. Cindy Bohland of Roanoke, Virginia; Shannon
O’Bryan of Tallahassee, Florida; Brittany Reeser of Los Angeles, California; and Robert
Sandler of New York, New York. Most prizes and fellowships awarded to members
of the senior class were announced by Dean Sandstrom yesterday at Ivy Exercises. A list of the recipients, as well as lists
of seniors receiving various categories of honors, can be found in the back of the commencement
program. Please join me in congratulating them for
their wonderful achievements. The William Bradford Turner Citizenship Prize
was established in memory of Mr. Turner of the Class of 1914, who was killed in action
in France in 1916. The prize is awarded to that member of the
graduating class whose service, leadership, and good will have inspired the gratitude
and admiration of this community, and whose wholehearted embrace of the institution has
helped us to see more clearly its highest purposes. This year’s recipient has done exceptional
work within the Williams community, as well as beyond it. She has been a crucial leader in the Center
for Learning in Action, playing key roles in almost every function of the center. She has been an active participant and organizational
force in Story Time, the Christian Fellowship, and Interfaith Students for Education Reform. She founded the Campus Kitchen. Even beyond all of her concrete accomplishments,
classmates marvel over her fundamental kindness, effervescent smile, and openness to learning
from everyone with whom she interacts. This psychology and sociology double major
is truly an outstanding Williams citizen. I now have the pleasure of calling onstage,
this year’s winner of the William Bradford Turner Citizenship Prize, Megan Maher. Congratulations. With the ending of this academic year, 12
members of the faculty will have reached the conclusion of their William’s years. We will now honor those who are able to be
with us today. The full list is printed in your program. Elona D. Bell. Like the Elizabethan era in Britain, the Elonian
period in the Williams English Department has been extraordinarily fertile and creative,
and marked by the changing status of women. This is no mere coincidence. You have been a hard working teacher and scholar,
focused on Renaissance poetry, the history of courtship, and how both reflect the beginnings
of change in the role of women in western culture. In particular, your book on Elizabeth combined
textual analysis, history, and feminist perspectives to show how she used the discourse of love
both to establish her power, and to rule. This work was among the first stirrings of
the movement that lead her at Williams, to our program in Women’s Gender and Sexuality
Studies. You arrived in the vanguard of women in the
department, and had tended with uncommon generosity to the needs of your colleagues. Thus, does a garden thrive? With the attentive propping up here, and watering
over there, of the kind that is resulted in your own yard, earning inclusion in the Smithsonian
archive of American Garden’s. I hereby declare you Samuel Festendon Clark,
Professor of English Emerita, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining
thereto. Darra Goldstein. One of the joys of academic life is the freedom
to follow ones curiosity, which you have done most heartedly. You introduced students to the language, literature,
and intellectual history of Russia, and providing many of them a rich, immersive experience
in post-soviet Georgia. At the same time, you turned your lifelong
passion for food, into a glorious multi course feast. More than mere fuel; food, you have shown,
both conveys and develops culture as much as do art, literature, and music. In the classroom and around the groaning boards
of your own warm home, you have convinced us that each bite carries with it hints, if
we become open to them, of the people, economics, politics, and culture of each ingredients
origin. You have written award winning cookbooks that
feed both the stomach and the mind, and most astoundingly you have created and guided the
stunning new publication Gastronomica. Is it a journal? A magazine? An art book? No one knows. What we do know is that largely through your
passion and persistence, the academic field of food studies, long considered to be in
short pants, has finally been invited to the grown-ups table. I hereby declare you Wilcox B. and Harriet
M. Adsit, Professor of Russian Emerita, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges
appertaining thereto. Eugene J. Johnson. The chops you developed as a member of Cap
and Bells, you went on to apply famously to the teaching of art. It was like learning from Gealgood. The resonant voice, the visual effects, the
flare for the dramatic. Each carefully chosen detail conveying that
the lesson of the day was thrilling and urgent. All of this leavened with a dry sense of humor. The only stage added you flouted was never
to work with animals, as each performance was accompanied by one of your string of spaniels. Your classroom was immersive. Four images projected at a time, and then
spectacularly the three dimensional portrayals of some of the most beautiful buildings in
the world, which you developed with colleagues, two generations your junior. Your stagecraft has opened the eyes of countless
students to the visual language of shape, line, and contour in architecture and in sculpture,
enriching for the rest of their lives their experience of the built environment. We look forward to the encore. You’re continuing work on what else? Theaters of the Italian Renaissance. I hereby declare you Amos Lawrence Professor
of Art Emeritus, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto. Christine Larson Mason. Olympic medalist, world cup athlete, field
hockey hall of fame inductee, you joined the Williams coaching staff as perhaps its most
accomplished athlete ever. In a department then predominantly male, you
became its first senior woman administrator, and leave now as its first retiring female
coach. In the intervening decades you helped lead
Williams into the world of Title 9, ably guiding both field hockey and lacrosse, and in physical
education classes, shared your joy of play with countless students. Competitive? You bet. Word has it that you lost a badminton match
to a student only once, and these many years later still lose sleep over it. Caring, that too. Always aware of which student, colleague,
or neighbor needed support, and instinctively dropping everything to provide it. Your sharp perception of the game earned you
a National Coach of the Year award, while your always upbeat attitude has inspired generations
of players, many of whom have gone on to careers in coaching. Perhaps the greatest honor of all. I hereby declare you Assistant Professor of
Physical Education Emerita, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining
thereto. Jefferson Strait. You have devoted your time at Williams to
both little things and big things. Your research has focused on pulses of light,
with a wavelength of a millionth of a meter, that last for a trillionth of a second. The most important training for this work
is learning not to blink. Outside the lab, you chose to keep your eye
on things larger than yourself. You have mentored countless students, many
of whom have gone on to graduate work. You have advised virtually every student interested
in engineering. You have supported thoughtfully, your colleagues. You have expanded the curriculum, including
with courses on energy that interwove science, technology, and social issues. You have taught a popular winter study course
on holography, that introduced students, many of them from well outside the major, to that
technology’s uses beyond projecting Princess Leia. Perhaps most notably, your desire to serve
the community, led to your term as College Marshall, applying your focus on small details
to the large tasks to organizing the college’s convocations and commencements. Fittingly, we honor you here today at a ceremony
of which, for many years, you were the steward. I hereby declare you, John B. McCoy and John
T. McCoy, Professor of Physics, emeritus, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges
appertaining thereto. William G. Wagner. A history lover’s history professor. That’s how you are remembered by one of the
many students you have taught how to more deeply investigate the past in order to more
clearly comprehend the present. Your own scholarships has reveled in the rich
history of Russia, especially the experience of its women before and after the Revolution. Your courses, many of them interdisciplinary
examinations of Russian culture, shed light on its current arch. From the height of the Cold War, at the beginning
of your career through Perestroika, to whatever future historians will call that country’s
current dynamic. Grateful we are that you adopted none of the
tendencies of Russian leadership while fulfilling here at Williams positions of growing responsibility. This began with services Assistant Dean of
the college, then director of the Oxford program, followed by Dean of the faculty and finally,
Interim President. The last of these at a time of global financial
crisis. Through it all, you remained, at heart, a
professor who as another performer student recalls, “Always had a little smile on his
face as if looking to share some great story from Russian history.” I hereby declare you Brown Professor of History,
emeritus, entitled to the all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto. William K. Wootters. The last time a physicist of your stature
entered an undergraduate classroom may have been when Einstein stumbled into one looking
for the bathroom at Princeton. It was there, however, that you pursued the
noble call of explaining the theories of physics to all manner of students. Majors and non-majors, tutorial takers, and
thesis writes, all of them exposed to the contagious enthusiasm you brought to each
lesson. With your broad-ranging mind, you have also
taught with a math colleague courses on protecting information, and with a philosopher, the implications
for that field of advancements in modern physics. Some of those advances have been of your own
devising. In particular, your co-authored paper on how
quantum states can seemingly be teleported across space has been corroborated by experiment,
has spawned its own growing subfield and holds promise of applications in quantum computing
that boggle the imagination. In the way that Moses returned from seeing
God with his face forever changed, we will remember you as one who having peered into
the deep mystery of quantum mechanics, returned eyes permanently wide with awe and wonder. I hereby declare you Barclay Jermain, Professor
of Natural Philosophy, emeritus, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges
appertaining thereto. Since 1795, seniors have spoken from the commencement
stage. Indeed, in early years, all seniors spoke. The present wise practice of limiting the
student speakers to three members of the class began in 1901. One speaker is chosen by the class, one is
selected by the five Beta Kappa society, and the last speaker is our valedictorian. It is my pleasure to introduce our class speaker,
Jeffrey Rubel. One other thing, so before I begin, I want
to take a quick pic of the class of 2017. Let’s go viral, like bigger than Ellen at
the Oscars. So, smile! We can get the faculty, too. This photo is also for a Facebook album I’ve
been assembling over the past four years. It’s called “Adventures in the Purple Valley.” I know, a pretty cheesy title. In my album, I have photos from the big moments,
the mountain days, and the homecomings and most importantly, the add-drop periods, #you’re
32. But there are other photographs not in my
album. The unglamorous pictures of our ordinary routines
at Williams, of what some call ‘the daily grind.’ I asked all of you about them. Your daily photos include telling stories
with friends crammed into your hallway in West. Walking to snack bar, wrapped in a scarf in
the dead of winter. Sitting in a professor’s office in Hollander
discussing your essay. But sometimes these routines, they grind us
down. I know. I’ve been there. There’s the week my sophomore spring that
I had so much homework I ate every meal in 20 minutes alone in upstairs Paresky. We’ve all had those times we felt consumed
by the grind. Then we’re left wondering, “What’s it all
even for?” In my hand I have a jar of sea glass. When broken glass first falls into the ocean,
it has sharp edges, but it’s in the sea. A world of waves, of currents, and of sediment
transport. These forces polish the glass, taking it from
sharp shards to smooth sections. But there’s no specific moment when this transformation
happens. This is how our lives work. The forces that polish us are always acting,
and for us, these forces are our everyday routines. Eating and talking, practicing and playing,
reading and thinking. Now, day in and day out, it’s so much easier
to not stop and not recognize these routines. So often they consume us, paper after paper,
practice after practice, coffee after coffee after coffee after coffee, but here at our
not-so-sun dabbled commencement, we can stop and we can recognize how the continual flow
of these routines has endlessly and ceaselessly shaped us. Our routines define us because we choose them. Each is a decision about how we’ll spend our
time. About what we value. They reflect our choices and reveal our commitments. They’re how we express ourselves every day. Further, routines are how we accomplish what
matters to us, because our grand achievements are built on every day moments. Just ask anyone who’s done a thesis or won
a championship or is graduating from Williams today. This, this is the power of the ordinary, and
perhaps, this is why it’s called the daily grind, because it’s grinding our sea glass’s
sharp edges, polishing them. The ordinary is how we create the extraordinary
and it’s our Williams routines that have that have shaped us into the extraordinary Williams
graduates we are today, because our routines are constant and our lives are carried on
the currents of our commitments. Even though today we’re leaving our little
bay in the Berkshires, we’ll always be in the ocean, where we’ll be endlessly sculpted
and ceaselessly polished because we are all sea glass, each and every one of us, on continual
journeys from sharp shards to beautiful treasures. Thank you and congratulations class of 2017. Thank you, Jeffrey. Jeffrey promised me that if I found that sea
glass under there it wasn’t a bomb. I shouldn’t call security. Our Phi Beta Kappa speaker is Melanie Subbiah. My dad told me once about a mountain climber
whose favorite feeling was completing a climb and knowing that for that moment, standing
at the top of the mountain, he was the only person in the world who knew that he had summited
that climb. A pure moment of success just for him, untouched
by praise or other people’s recognition. Now this speech is not about success or climbing,
but it is about what we choose to do in those moments when we feel that no one is watching. And, it’s about grapefruits. The first time I had my mind blown at Williams
was watching my friend eat a grapefruit in Mission Dining Hall freshman year. Now, clearly I’m either way to easily fascinated
or maybe I have an unhealthy obsession with grapefruits. What drew my attention was that she chose
to peel her grapefruit and eat it in sections, instead of scooping it out with a spoon the
way I had always done. In that moment, she revolutionized my understanding
of something I thought I knew how to do, that I had been doing one way my whole life. She had no idea I was watching or that I would
take away so much from her simple action. She believed herself unnoticed, just like
the mountain climber, and yet she had unknowingly shifted my paradigm, showing me that grapefruits
are actually quite similar to oranges and there’s really no need to eat them any differently. Now, I know I’m just talking about eating
breakfast here, but you can imagine other moments like this with far more profound reaches. Besides, let’s be honest, breakfast food is
really pretty important. The unfortunate part though, is that these
moments to learn and to teach sometimes go unnoticed. When we’re in the position to learn, we’re
often too absorbed in our own lives to notice the wonderful things that our friends do;
to look over and just watch them eat their morning grapefruit. When we’re in the position to teach or to
lead, we often don’t notice or don’t act because we assume that no one is watching. I imagine we’re going to have this feeling
a lot in the future. That no one is watching or that no one cares
what we do. We’re leaving a small school. We’re the oldest, and at least hopefully,
most mature members of this community. We’re at the top and now we’re entering a
world that often seems indifferent to us, and in some cases is working against us. We have to keep taking opportunities to be
leaders, even if it’s just in the small gestures that we don’t know if anyone is watching,
but that cut against the grain, because sometimes someone will be watching. It’s these small local acts of originality,
of kindness, of resistance, that add up. So let’s keep eating grapefruits, keep teaching,
and learning from each other, and keep summiting mountains, even when no one is watching. Congratulations class of 2017. Thank you, Melanie. As our final student speaker, we welcome the
Valedictorian of the class of 2017, Caroline White-Nockleby. As some of you probably know, I entered Williams
with the class of 2016. For the past year I’ve been watching friends
and classmates start jobs, navigate cities, waitress, breakup, move home, and submit dozens
of cover letters. I spent this week asking them, “What did you
learn this year that you couldn’t have learned in college?” The answers, like our classmates, varied and
often contradicted each other. I wanted to share seven snippets with you
today. Perhaps from this confluence of insights might
arise something nuanced. Fragments, maybe, of wisdom. One, I learned so many things. How to fix a toilet, how to survive when the
heat stops working, and that unlike in Williamstown, people actually steal things in the big city. Two, how to cook nourishing meals for myself. Also, how to grow mushrooms. How to practice meditation. Three, at times, I felt jealous of the members
of the class who seemed to have it all figured out. I’ve also been jealous of the ones who don’t,
who seem to have no worries. Four, my favorite thing has been getting to
watch my friends from Williams flourish. Five, I quit the job that I accepted in the
summer before my senior year. I found the environment to be toxic. Still, somehow, it was incredibly difficult
to walk away. Six, the people who helped me through the
year were often not just friends, but strangers. It was the Barista who asked me how my day
was going. It was the Salsa dancers who patiently helped
me learn the basic steps. Seven, I still feel like a kid sometimes. Each person I talked to lived a unique year. Perhaps some stories will one day overlap
with yours. But these reflections offer more than just
a roadmap. They also bring us a deeper gift. Here’s what I mean, a few weeks ago Ira Glass
got really real on This American Life. Apparently, years ago he met an 89 year old
lady named Mary one night at a park. She improbably became one of his closest friends. Reflecting on their friendship, Ira says,
“Even the worst advice from a friend comes with a second message. That’s just, ‘I got your back.’ Sometimes we each ignore the other’s advice,
but Mary had my back. I had hers, which in the end, of course, was
more important anyway.” As I talked to our classmates this week, I
felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love for all the brilliant, generous people
we’ve shared this place with. A sense of being held and heard, even as I
listened. Fellow classmates … I think you guys are
supposed to stand now … As we move and change, let’s never stop being curious about the people
we come to know and truly, deeply listening to what they have to say. Those we meet may be struggling, thriving,
lonely, or in love, or maybe all of those at once, but they are human, and together
they are wise. Congratulations the class of 2017. We did it. Thank you, Caroline. It is our custom at this time to award honorary
degrees to people of great accomplishment in many varied walks of life. We hold them up as deserving of honor, and
as examples for our graduates this day. Billy Collins. Citing as early influences, the work of Merrie
Melodies and Looney Tunes, you were unpublished, perhaps, coincidentally, but perhaps not,
until your 40s. Since then, however, you have developed a
unique place in American poetry. In pieces that are accessibly clear on the
surface, but progressively deep underneath, you open readers to hidden powers of the everyday. At the same, you have dedicated yourself to
spreading the joy of poetry to the population. Noting that, “High school is where poetry
goes to die.” You founded the program Poetry 180, to make
poems an active part of the daily experience of students. You have also taught regularly in universities,
and have led workshops across the US and Ireland. You have served as US Poet Laureate, and been
named a literary lion of the New York Public Library. You have, on three occasions, read at the
White House, and once to a joint session of congress to honor the victims of 9/11. You have become, in short, a poet of the people,
a splendid and important role in a democracy. I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary
degree, Doctor of Letters, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining
thereto. William C. Dudley, class of 1989. A son of Williams, after studies at the University
of Cambridge, a brief foray into business, and graduate school in philosophy, you return
to the haunts of your undergraduate experiences. These included a magna cum laude degree in
philosophy and mathematics, service as a junior advisor, and exploits as captain of the water
polo team that we won’t be going into here. You have relished the chance to introduce
curious, young minds to the methods of philosophical inquiry, especially those associated with
German idealism. While as Gaudino scholar, you have coxed students,
faculty, and alumni to take calculated risks in new modes of uncomfortable learning. Your time as provost was marked by clarity
of both mission and expression. You advanced the college’s work on focusing
resources on its central purpose, aligning fundraising priorities with needs, treating
everyone fairly, and continuing to open the college to students of whatever means. At the same time, you managed to clarify for
audiences, here and beyond, the complicated seeming system by which Williams and colleges
like it are financed. You now apply this unique set of skills as
the 27th president of Washington and Lee, where you go with the deep pride and gratitude
of your alma mater. I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary
degree, Doctor of Laws, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining
thereto. Gina McCarthy. What a long, strategic trip it’s been. From local health agent, to state administrator
in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and then to head of the US Environmental Protection
Agency. Along the way, you’ve developed- I’m glad the EPA’s in applause line. Along the way, you’ve developed policies on
economic growth, energy, transportation, and the environment. You led efforts to restore Long Island Sound
and protect Connecticut’s parks and forests. Under your leadership, EPA initiatives cut
air pollution, protected water resources, reduced greenhouse gases, and strengthened
chemical safety to better protect more Americans, especially the most vulnerable, from negative
health impacts. You crafted the country’s first carbon regulations
for power plants, and helped coordinate the nation’s first mandatory cap-and-trade program. These accomplishments and others are credited
with drawing other nations into the Paris Climate Agreement. This is no arena for the faint hearted. You have worked for both Mitt Romney and Barack
Obama. “If I’m in a room where everybody agrees,”
you have said, “I start to nod off.” This grit, combined with your sharp mind and
can-do attitude have improved, and even saved, the lives of countless people in this country
and abroad. I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary
degree, Doctor of Laws, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining
thereto. Congratulations. Gavin A. Schmidt. Who says there are no more public intellectuals? No one familiar with your work. Fascinated by the science behind them, you
have played an integral role in the development of climate models, the increasingly sophisticated
tools that help us calculate the effects of the several contributors to climate change,
and even more importantly, of the various steps we can take to combat it. Understanding the urgency of this work, you
have devoted as much time outside the lab, bringing light to the often dark discussion
of this pressing challenge. Your writing and speaking are as clear as
they are far-ranging. From scientific journals, to Letterman, and
the Daily Show. The blog that you co-founded, Real Climate,
has become a main source of intelligent, fact-based discussion of the issue. While your own informed, passionate, and civil
discourse serves as a model for the engagement of scientists with public issues, it comes
at a pivotal time. One in which ideology threatens to cloud fact. Your simple formula is that science plus values
should equal policy. Because of your work, and that of those you
have inspired, it might yet still. I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary
degree, Doctor of Science, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining
thereto. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. You are truly a woman of the world. Born in a Nigerian college town, where you
were cursed for a writer with a happy childhood, you came to America to study, and now split
your time between both countries and both cultures. A veracious young reader, you began writing,
by your own account, as soon as you could spell. That writing has now come to be translated
into thirty languages, and you have become a global presence. Bestowed with an array of honors, including
a MacArthur grant. Your fictional characters make real lives
that are intersected by nationality, gender, race, and class. “No one,” you have said, “is just one story.” These lives often challenge the status quo,
as does your own. You are increasingly turned to in the intellectual
circles and in the general public for guidance on how to advance the lives of women and girls. Your Ted Talk became the influential essay,
Why We Should All Be Feminists. Your email to a friend who had asked for advice
on raising her daughter became the international sensation, Dear Ijeawele or A Feminist Manifesto
in 15 Suggestions. You are indeed a woman of the world, not only
as it is, but as it is becoming. I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary
degree, Doctor of Letters, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining
thereto. It is our custom to ask one of our honored
guests to speak on behalf of the entire group of recipients of honorary degrees. This year, we will have the pleasure of hearing
from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Class of 2017, congratulations. A friend of mine was a professor here at Williams
some years ago. In preparing to come here, I asked him to
tell me about Williams. Had he enjoyed his time here? He said he had. “What are the students like?” I asked him. He said, “They’re cool.” Now, cool seemed to me a bit unexpected, and
so I asked exactly what he meant by cool. “Well,” he said, “they’re geeks,” which I
thought was rather lovely, because it seemed to him self-evident that to be a geek was
to be cool. I particularly liked the idea of Williams
as a college of cool geeks. My friend also said, “The students are hard-working,
and their parents are very, very involved.” I want to say a big congratulations to all
the parents, because it appears that this is also your graduation. Congratulations to uncles and aunts and grandparents
and all the other wonderful permutations of family here. I asked a few other people who know Williams
what they could tell me. I was looking for insider tips, the sorts
of things I couldn’t find from reading proper histories of Williams. One of them said to me, “Whatever you do,
do not say anything good about Amherst College.” Now, that was helpful because it gave me an
idea for this address, which is that I would begin by briefly telling you how wonderful
Amherst is and how unfortunate it is that you are graduating from Williams instead of
from Amherst. Class of 2017, congratulations on graduating
from a college that is consistently ranked number one among the American liberal arts
colleges. It’s impressive and terrifying. I read somewhere that graduating students
never remember the commencement address, so you won’t remember anything I have to say,
which I find quite comforting, because I don’t expect to say anything particularly memorable,
but I do hope that you’ll always remember the emotional shape of today, that you will
remember the sense of transition that today represents, that you’ll remember how today’s
both an ending and a beginning. I imagine you’re exhausted and sleep deprived
and relieved, and maybe you have mixed feelings that you cannot quite articulate yet, but
whatever it is, I hope you enjoy today. I hope you make today meaningful to you, because
this is it. You will not be graduating from Williams College
again. I read about this Williams graduation tradition
of dropping a pocket-watch from the campus chapel, and if the watch breaks that it means
that your class will be lucky. My first thought was that it seemed to me
a suspiciously easy way of predicting good luck, because surely the watch always breaks. Does it matter how the watch is dropped? Are we talking about a gentle act or a fierce
fling? Reading about that tradition made me think
of good luck, or what I like to call fortune, because I think luck is important. Luck has played a role in the success that
I have achieved as a writer. I’m not saying this to practice that kind
of false modesty in which one coyly refuses to claim one’s success. I am instead acknowledging that there are
writers out there in the world who write as well or better than I do, and who have not
had the same success as I have. I was fortunate that an agent took me on. Her words to me were, “I will take a chance
on you.” I was fortunate that my first novel was published
15 years ago at a time when the American publishing industry was going through a new kind of flexibility
and openness, but the thing about luck is that you have to be prepared to meet it. It’s just one ingredient out of many. Sometimes, you have to nudge fortune a little,
sometimes badger fortune, and keep trying, because luck is never enough. Writing is what I love. Writing is my vocation. Had I not had the good fortune of being published,
I would be somewhere completely unknown, but I would be writing. I would also be doing the two things that
I consider the essential correlaries of writing, reading and dreaming. I made the decision to be published. I did the research. I wrote and rewrote stories. I sent out manuscripts. This was in the late 1990s before email became
common. I spent a lot of the little money I had buying
stamps for self-addressed envelopes, and each time I went to the mailbox and saw my own
handwriting on a thick envelope, I knew that my manuscript had been sent back, and I would
feel sad. I would give myself a bit of time to be upset,
and then I would dust myself up and go look up more literary agent addresses in the library,
and send off a new batch of manuscripts. I got rejection after rejection, but I kept
sending them out. Then I got lucky, which is to say that my
determination and my hard work, and my ambition met with fortune. Yes, ambition. To all of you, particularly to the women,
because so many studies have shown how unfairly American society judges women who are considered
ambitious, I want to say, “Please own your ambition.” Ambition is not a bad word. The desire to be better and to do better is
not a bad thing. I was also writing short stories and sending
them out to journals, and for each story I sent out that was rejected, I knew that it
was either that the story was a bad fit for that particular journal, or that the story
was just bad. Maybe the characters were flat. Maybe the prose was limp, which is to say
that it’s very helpful to be clear-eyed about your own work, to be able to hold in your
hand the possibility that you might not have done your best. I grew up in Nigeria. Mine was a very happy childhood, but it was
also a childhood under military dictatorships, and because of that, I know how easily injustice
becomes normal. I know how quickly, in the face of sustained
mediocrity, we collectively lower our standards so that unacceptable things suddenly become
not so bad. This is not a perfect country. It is in fact not as hallowed as American
nationalists like to think, but it was built on an idea that is humane and beautiful, and
very much worth perfecting. What America will become is now in the hands
of your generation. You cannot be complacent. You cannot afford to be complacent, because
democracy is always fragile. To keep a just society just, has nothing to
do with being on the political left or or on the political right. It requires people who know that incompetence
dressed up as strategy is still incompetence, and still unacceptable. It requires resilient and resistant people
who believe in the true idea of America, and in the idea of truth, and in the idea of just
laws, and who will constantly and consistently take a stand. As you go forth into the world with your newly
minted diplomas, whether to brave your way through graduate school or take on new jobs,
or hunker down in your parents’ basement, I want to ask you to please always take a
stand. Stand for social justice. To paraphrase something I heard recently,
“Be ashamed to die until you have taken one stand that benefits humanity.” It’s easy to talk about social justice, especially
now in this age of hasty hashtags and social media, which brings me to social media. Please allow me to give a condensed version
of a rant that I frequently deliver to my nephews and nieces, a rant which, by the way,
has remained ineffectual. The rant is this: Put the damned phone down. Well, at least for a few hours a day. Read a book. Talk to other human beings. When you do pick up the phone again, before
you tweet or Snapchat or Instagram, call your parents, or call an aunt, or go outside and
do something that you will not be photographing or videotaping for social media. In the grand scheme of things, views and likes
on social media really mean nothing. Okay, that’s not true. They do mean something in the way that they
represent a fleeting, but still enjoyable validation. Of course, now in the age of something called
social media influencers, they can be monetized. It is not that being on social media doesn’t
matter. It does matter. It does have its good uses, but the question
is how much social media should matter, how much space social media should occupy in your
life. Less than it did in college, I would suggest. I would suggest too, that you be very clear
about the artifice that social media is, and that you try and have real connections with
actual people that you actually know. Too much social media is like eating too much
of a moist, too sweet, too rich, too everything cake. You like it while you’re stuffing yourself,
but afterwards, you feel less than good, and you realize you would have been better off
with a little less cake. I speak from experience, by the way, not with
social media, but with cake. Okay, now the rant is over, and you can imagine
why my nieces and nephews don’t like to visit me. One more thing about social media. Please don’t be one of those people who attack
others under the cowardly cloak of social media. It is the most uncool thing in the world,
and you after all, are cool geeks. Back to social justice. When the Nigerian government passed a ridiculous
law that aimed to punish Nigerian citizens for being gay, I spoke up against it. An acquaintance told me that he didn’t understand
why I wouldn’t just be quiet about it. “You have nothing to gain, but everything
to lose,” he said. I did have something to gain. Living in a just society is a huge gain. Not merely in moral terms, although those
are terribly important, but also in practical terms. Your productivity and your well-being increase
in you live in a system of justice. You’re better off if your fellow citizens
are better off. When I talk about standing for social justice,
I mean some of the obvious things, such as voting, helping other register to vote, calling
your elected officials, actually knowing who your elected officials are, paying attention
to local politics, and by the way, I’d like to digress a bit and implore all the political
science graduates here to please change the structure of American politics. Please work to drastically shorten campaign
cycles. Please work to remove the soul-destroying
influence of money. Please work to make this democracy truly democratic. Sometimes, sometimes, standing for social
justice can mean listening, truly listening. Be open to anyone who does not wish you harm. American politics is so deeply tribal now
that a common response is to demonize the other side. I won’t ask you to never demonize a person
with an opposing view, because quite frankly, some views deserve to be demonized, but don’t
make demonization your first option. Listen first. Hear what is being said, and gauge with it,
gauge it, then form your opinion. To stand for social justice is in many cases
to be uncomfortable. Please be willing to be uncomfortable. You might squirm a bit. You should squirm a bit because nobody really
enjoys being uncomfortable, but be uncomfortable. Discomfort can breed resilience. Discomfort can open up new understanding and
meaning and knowledge. Standing for social justice is not without
consequences, and there are worse consequences than being uncomfortable. It’s not enough to speak for the voiceless. You must work for conditions that enable the
voiceless to themselves be heard. It is not enough to help. You must also ask why those you’re helping
are in a condition to be helped, and whether there are structural changes to be made to
give them back their full dignity. Be careful not to define injustice in foreign
terms. I’m always half amused and half annoyed by
Americans who are very keen to ask me about the terrible state of something called Women
in Africa. Believe me, the news is not good, so the creeping
impatience I feel is not because they’re wrong, but because they have narrowly decided to
define gender injustice as a foreign problem. Gender is as much a problem in the United
States as it is in Nigeria. It just happens to wear a different kind of
dress here. More women die in childbirth in America than
should for a country that is ostensibly the most powerful in the world. There’s domestic violence, there’s a pay gap. Women in positions of power is abysmal. The cultural and societal ideas that diminish
women, the idea that a room full of men can make decisions about women’s bodies. Yes, yes, yes, there’s great injustice in
the far-flung places in the world, and there is injustice in your backyard. Standing for social justice must invariably
require acknowledging privilege. I don’t mean that common expression in colleges,
“Check your privilege,” which to me feels a bit too easy, a bit too simple, bordering
on glib. In thinking about privilege, it helps me to
use my own experience. I am black, in case you didn’t notice. I’m a woman, and while I am very happily both,
and would not change either for anything in the world, these are not identity groups that
are privileged, but I do belong to another group that is privileged, and that is class. It means that because I grew up in a middle
class household, and I had the good fortune of a good education in Nigeria, because of
the family I was born into, and because I have since acquired certain degrees, the world
extends courtesies to me that it does not extend to people who do not have these qualities. How does this blind me? What am I unable to see, because my own experience
lies like a shroud around my eyes? If you are a white woman, you are privileged
because you’re white. In what ways does this blind you to the experience
of women who are not white. If you’re a student of color, there are many
ways in which you are not privileged, but if you’re graduating today there is one way
in which you now are, you have a fancy pants degree. It means a certain kind of access. It means you have something that the majority
of Americans do not have and if you’re a strict white male well, congratulations you hit the
jackpot. You belong to the groups that have the most
privileges in this country and consequently the most possible blind spots, which means
you might need to be checked at LensCrafters for a pair of glasses, but it also means that
you have to be part of the solution. Yes, calling out privilege is important because
very often privilege gets in the way of true social justice, but as you call out privilege,
always make yourself complicit and beware of self-righteousness and remember that every
single person has gone through some challenge in their lives. Privilege does not mean an endlessly easy
life. Privilege is always relative to something
else. Privilege means that you fall into a group
that has advantages that another group does not. Please do not use the idea of privilege as
a silencing tool, as a club to hit people over the head and make them silent because
there is potential value in everybody’s story. Remember that labels do not always capture
the full texture of people’s lives. I’d like to end with this line from Emily
Dickinson, hope is the things with feathers. It makes me imagine hope as something both
breakable and forceful. May you always be propelled by hope. May you always remain the cool geeks that
you are and I hope that pocket watch broke and if it didn’t break you need to go back
and fiercely fling it down until it breaks. Congratulations, I wish you well. Thank you Chimammanda. Thank you very, very much. It is now my great pleasure to ask Dean Sandstrom
to present the candidates for degrees. Mr President on behalf of the faculty I have
the honor to present the following candidates for the degree of Master of Arts in art history. Kerry Bickford. Margo Isabelle Cohen Ristorucci. Jacob Eisensmith. Andres Mariano Galperin. Anna Katherine Kelley. John Westfall Kimbriel Ariel Kline. Amanda Katherine Morgan. Hilde DeVoin Nelson. Thomas H. Price. Lea Cosete Stephenson. Terence Bernard Washington II. Erin Elizabeth Wrightson. Mr President on behalf of the faculty I have
the honor- Whoa, whoa. Slow down. By virtue of the authority vested in me. Ha, that was important. It wasn’t going to count, it actually was
going to count if I didn’t get that line in. We’d have to do the whole program all over
again, which that would’ve been fine. By virtue of the authority vested in me I
confer upon you the degree of Master of Arts in art history entitled to all the rights,
honors and privileges appertaining thereto. Congratulations. Now I got it. Mr President on behalf of the faculty I have
the honor to present the following fellows at the center for development economics, for
the degree of Master of Arts in policy economics. Shemshat Amanova ,Turkmenistan. Samir Ashraf from Bangladesh. Abubaker Ali Ba Abbad, Yemen. Osmar Bolivar from Bolivia. Lucy Breweh, Sierra Leone. Seruwaia Cgailaba from Fiji. José Cardoso, Mozambique. Othman Chanzi, Tanzania. Phanin Chhim from Cambodia. Enkhzaya Demid, Mongolia. Halimatou Gambo Illo Daoura, Niger. Chikumbutso Tony Gareta, Malawi. Rakibul Hasan, Bangladesh. Francine Inarukundo, Burundi. Mariana Chifundo Jumbe, Malawi. Nikolina Kršić, Bosnia. Joachim Loua, Guinea. Nobert Machinjike, Zimbabwe. Matiop John Deng, South Sudan. Libère Nduwimana, Burundi. Marina Mavungu Ngoma, Democratic Republic
of the Congo. Catherine Ninsiima, Uganda. Pascal Matthew Owor, Uganda. Shahanaj Pervin, Bangladesh. Thu Zar Phyo, Myanmar. Volatantely Randrianjanaka, Madagascar. Rasolofomanana Nirintsoa Veronica from Madagascar. Chuluunbaatar Shinebaatar, Mongolia Oumou Toure, Mali. Arturo Sanchez Trinidad II from the Philippines. By virtue of the authority vested in me, I
confer upon you the degree of Master of Arts in policy economics entitled to all the rights,
honors and privileges appertaining thereto. Congratulations. Mr. President, on behalf of the faculty, I
have the honor to present the following candidates for the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Karim Fettouh. Rebecca Pauline Acree. Veronica Addai Mensah. Dalla Adabayo. Funmilayo Danielle Adejobi. Christian Barrett Alcorn. Burham Ahmad Aldroubi Bushra Syed Shefat Ali, in abstentia. Kobie Christofer Allen. Gabrielle Marie-Maya Amos-Grosser. Patrick Rourke Anderson. Amelia Lynne Archer. Ashley Elaine Arnold. Daniel Callahan Aronowitz. Nini Arshakuni Megumi Angela Asada. Hannah Danielle Atkinson. Ava Atri. Eduardo Avalos. Yoonsang Bae. Caleb Raphael Baer. John Charles Bahr-de Stefano. Paul Pierre Baird-Smith. Michelle Catherine Bal. Jonathan Albert Ball. Kathryn Ward Barnitt. Janae Joelle Barrett. Robert Nigel Bates. Johanna Marie Beattie. Caroline James Beckmann. Caitlan Boyd Benell. Hannah Margaret Benson. Claire Augusta Bergey. Natalie Grace Bernstein. Alexander Joseph Besser. Sierra Winston Betts. Varun Louis Bhadkamkar Emma Kate Bickel. Brett Ann Bidstrup. Megan Katherine Bird. Molly Isabel Bodurtha. Nathaniel Hamilton Boley. Derrick Joseph Bonafilia. Matthew Borin. Bridget Fennessy Bousa. Brooke Alison Bovier. Ale Evan Brandeis. Rachel Eleanor Brissette. Phillip Ross Brockman. Osama Fadi Brosh. Sara Grace Brownrigg. Brigid Kathleen Bruno. Graham Benjamin James Buchan. Caitlin Ann Cybil Buckley. Michelle Jeanne Buncke. Yvonne Chelagat Bungei. Jonathon Gregory Kevin Burne. Samuel Underhill Burrington. Margaret Elizabeth Burroughs. David Robert Burt, Summa Cum Laude. Walford Adaman Campbell, in abstentia. Minwei Cao. William Jie Cao. Melissa Alexandra Caplen. Mary Robert Carter. Sabrina Suzy-Q Castle. Selena Ashley Castro. Devon Marie Caveney. Mei Mei Chan. Cornelius Ward Chandler Jr. Angela Chang. Paige Cree Chardavoyne. Cassidy Savannah Olga Charles. Kelly Chen. Mallory Yi-Min Chen. Richard Daniel Chen. Julia Cheng. Elim Cho. Jenna Rebecca Chodos. Jaeho Choi. Christopher Stanislaw Chorzepa. Silje Rebecca Christoffersen. Ariel Chu. Ivy Adair Ciaburri. Olivia Emery Clark. Sala Robin Clark. Rachel Monroe Clemens. Quentin Victor Cohan. Dana Elizabeth Cohen. Garcelle Elimene Coldros. Hannah Grace Cole. Marcus Christian Colella. Meghan Ann Collins. May Mechem Congdon. Ellen Anderson Coombe. Miranda Eve Cooper. Sarah Emlyn Cooperman. Gabriel Eduardo Corrochano. Luke Thomas Costley. Colin Dafydd Francis Cotton. Alyssa Kathleen Crain. Duncan McIndoe Cummings. Elizabeth Fall Curtis Jane Dai Cranbury. Yuanchu Dang. Scott Goldberg Daniel. Pannatorn Daochai. Mary Elizabeth Janelle Dato. Ronak Mahendra Dave. Matthew Reese Davies. Eric Paul Davis. Jordan Elizabeth Davis. Lane Augusta Davis. Khari Atiba Dawkins. Ricardo René Diaz. Erika Cristina Diaz Ortiz. Alexander Thomas Dickinson. Catherine Carhart Dickinson. John Michael Dillon. Cesar Florentino Dominguez. Paloma Alexandra Aguilar Dominguez. Brandon Craig Dory. Amal Amer Dougish. Steven-Louis Webb Dreyfus. Tyler Patrick Duff. William Livingston Duke. Elizabeth Glennon Dunoff. Rebecca Louise Dunwoody Rebecca Frances Durst. Candice Simone Dyce. Ryan John Eagan, in abstentia. Alessandra Harvey Edgar. Justin Bard Edwards. Kyrien Reynard Edwards. Lucas Barton Elek. Laura Dynan Elmendorf. Chase Logan Epstein. Yedidya Asnake Erque. Michael Philip Fahey. Ryan Curtis Fajardo. Scott Thomas Fanuzzi. Jack Baird Ferguson. Elisa Amelia Fernandez-Vasquez, in abstentia. Courtney Ann Fields. Jordan Fountain Fields. Tayana Victoria Fincher. Aaron James Finder. Grace Elizabeth Flaherty. Ross Fox Flieger-Allison. Alberto Flores Jr. David Amer Folsom Jr. Thomas Saxton Fowler. Elizabeth Sherwood Frank, in abstentia. John Choi Freeman. Max Bryan Friend. Elijah Myer Fromm. Ruby Maria Froom, Summa Cum Laude. Stetson Cole Futterman. Daniel Patrick Gainey. Kathleen Allen Gallop. Lis Janett Garcia. Gabrielle Maria Gauthier. Joseph Solomon Glass-Katz. Hanane Goelzer. Alexander Anderson Gonye. Nola Jennifer Gordon
. Matthew Bibber Goss. Ronald Govin. Samuel David Gray. Jonathan William Greeno. Kathryn Noe Grice. David Vincent Grier. Ibrahim Gsibat. Garrick Gu. Miaoru Guan. Yanira Guerra. Thomas Luke Clark Guest. Jacques Pierre George Guyot. María Grazzia Guzmán Núñez. Alexander Coleman Hagerty. Seba Haidar. Peter Ludwig Hale. Hans Halvorsen. Kiyana Monet Hanley. Miranda Rhew Hanson. Justin Alexander Harris. Conrad Fralinger Harron. Zoe Elise Harvan. Sarah Rose Hasselman, in abstentia. Matthew Henry Hayes. Devyn Jenna Hebert. Anand Shankar Hemmady. Matthew Loew Hennessy. John Edwin Herrera. Amelia Nicole Hidalgo. Luke Thomas Hinz. Aglaia Ashley Ho. Eli Vancampen Hoenig. Michael Riley Hoffman Jr. Ross Justin Hoffman. Colin Joseph Hogan. Allison Rachel Holle. Gemma Trainor Holt. Stephanie Leigh Horan. Intekhab Hossain. Nikolaus Harry Reginald Howe. Christian Hoyos. Emily Anna Hoyt. Alexander Chengpeng Huang. Roya Eskandari Huang. Mia Georgina Hull. George Joseph Hunkele. Cecilia Hurtado. Oscar Hurtado Aguilar. Fullerton, California Political Science Olivia Emmet Jackson. Adam Avraham Jamnik. Matthew M. Jang. Luis David Jaramillo. Victoria Lynne Jasuta. Didier Jean-Michel. Cameron Burks Jenkins. Sarah Gale Jensen. Jaehyun Jeong. Grant Alan Johnson. Kristen Lee Johnson. Lauren Alexandra Jones. Russell Kennedy Jones IV. Olivier Leonard Joseph. Sierra Elizabeth Jubin. Hae-Min Jung. Patrick Boggan Kane. Alexander Sébastien Kastner, Summa Cum Laude. Owen Adrian Kay. Martin Patrick Keenan. Kevin Eugene Kelly. Erik Noren Kessler. Yuv Vir Khosla. Min Kim. Tracey Hanna Kim. Hiroshi Christopher Kirby. William Mullen Kirby. Kristi Logan Kirshe. Sophie Anne Kitchen. Hanson Daniel Koota. Nontombi Keneilwe Kraai,in abstentia. Noah Krawitz. Emily Louise Krueger. Fernanda Oon Kei Lai. Jordan Geoffrey LaMothe. Lillian Celestia Lancaster. Sasha Langesfeld. Olivia Rose Larsen Aidan Seater Lawrence Nathan Christopher Leach Dongheon Lee Seongnam, Jae Yeon Janice Lee Joyce Lee Laura Elizabeth Lee Lia Lee Lily Hyerin Lee Nora Jane Lee Kendall Oldham Leet-Otley Christopher Ian LeFlore. In abstentia. Sara Louise Lehman Kathryn Hogan Leinbach Jamie Rose Lesser Jonah Michael Levine Jacqueline Rose Lewy Cindy Che-Hsuan Liao Borah Pearl Lim Jilly Lim Olivia Alsina Lima Benjamin Lin Krystina Mae Lincoln Paul Martina Lindseth Jieming Liu, in abstentia. Jose Miguel Lopez Larry Lopez Andrew James Lyness Christopher Kyle Lyons Jonathan Nicolas Taylor MacDougall. Russell Charles Maclin Camila Magendzo Si Young Mah Megan Jean Maher, Summa Cum Laude. Tsaina Venae Mahlen Alexander Stephen Nichols Akuku Makori Chinmayi Manjunath Samuel Yeh Manzi Matthew Stephen Marcarelli, Summa Cum Laude Gabrielle Markel Aaron Jan Maruzzo Michael Quackenbush May III Ananya Mayukha Emma Perkins McAvoy Lauren Mckenzie McCall Rebecca Kearney McClements Logan Duncan McCracken William Edward McGuire III Patrick Kelley McLaughlin Jonathan Hersey McLean James Blaine McNamara Alejandra María Mejía Schuyler MacKinnon Melore Alexandra Teresa Mendez Terrance Selasi Mensah Kevin Patrick Mercadante Alison Leigh Michalik Nathan Andrew Michalski Rose Warner Miles Spencer Alan Mitchell-Schwartz, in abstentia Mie Mizutani Julio Monge Russell Leroy Monyette Velia Alejandra Moran Olivas Frank Edward Mork IV Gabriel Joseph Morosky Teague Gallagher Morris, Summa Cum Laude Malcolm Hart Moutenot Connor Patrick Mulhall Liam James Mullen Erica Nicole Myers Jackson Alexander Myers Justice Audre Namaste Mariama Ndiaye Johnson Nei Devlin Ambrose Zealand Nelligan. Sarah Bell Neumann Alyza Blandine Ngbokoli Kimthanh Phan Nguyen Ngoc Minh Thi Nguyen Gabriel Ngwe Cody Philips DeGraffe Niles Juliette Fredrika Norrmén-Smith Sein Kelly Oh Victoria Ngozi Onuzuruike Jacqueline Suzanne Orr Angel Samuel Ortiz Rachel Olivia O’Sullivan Phillip Oung Ian Ronald Outhwaite Tomas Edmund Padgett Perez Tressa Lauren Palcheck Nina Girish Pande Shubhanga Pandey Kathmandu James Richard Pappas Rohan Nitin Paranjpe, in abstentia Jackson Emilio Parese Kyung Chan Park, in abstentia Robin Yijung Park Taylor Jaffee Patterson Margaret Ramsey Peard Riley Sebastian Peek Celeste Adriana Pepitone-Nahas Yvette Araseli Perez Megan Leigh Pierce Frances Sofia Pietrantonio Dylanger Skyler Pittman Brian Joseph Policard Samantha Polsky Michael Alan Polson Clara Cohn Pomi Gemma Porras Nielsen Maria Veronica Prado Matthew James Quinn Hannah K. Rabb Abigail Elizabeth Rampone Castleton Brooks Rao Mohammed Abdul Rashid, in abstentia Christine Elisabeth Reed Connor Michael Reedy Adam Joseph Resnick Anneliese Mitzi Rilinger Evan Alexander Ringel Alyssa Caroline Ritchie Sarah Nicole Ritzmann Jose de Jesus Rivas-Garcia Reidar Merritte Riveland Jose Enrique Rivera-Aparicio Abigail Eve Robinson Luke Rodino Michael Amaury Rodriguez Roxana Rodriguez Chloe Marie Rogers Denis Andrew Rondeau Benjamin Thomas Rosen Katherine Clark Rosen. Ariana Irma Ross. Amy Michelle Rosten. Elizabeth Prentiss Rounds. Jeffrey Noble Rubel. Richard Alex Ruberto. Robert James Ruggiero. Christian Philipp Ruhl. Jacob Emanuel Ruttenberg. Yasmin Ruvalcaba Prosser. Maia Francesca Sacca-Schaeffer. William Benjamin Sager. Nicole Salani. John Patrick Salemi. Isabella Louise Salmi. Aramis Sanchez Jr. Diana Socorro Sanchez Krestan Suzanna Sattaur. Tyrone Derrick Scafe Jr. Alexander Schidlovsky, in abstentia Isabel Anne Rosemary Schlee Sophia Elisabeth Schmidt William Morrill Schmidt Emma Claire Schwartz Rachel Meredith Schwartz Deanna Cherie Segall Madeline French Seidman Maeve Allison Serino Jaqueline Serrano Aguilar Kayla Frances Servin Ashna Shah Aaditya Sharma Varun Sadasiva Sharma, in abstentia Rohan Raj Shastri Patrick Behan Shayer Hanna Lee Shebert Charles Allen Sheils Scott Andrew Shelton Anne Gilmour Sher Linda Jeeyoung Shin John Robert DeWitt Shuck Molly Elizabeth Siebecker Samuel Aaron Siegel Marisol Elizabeth Sierra Adrian Edward Simioni Troy Conner Sipprelle Jeffrey Allan Sload Jada Lelia Smith Ben Solis-Cohen Max Nathan Sopher Uygar Sozer Sean William Spees Anna Marcella Spellman Cameron Boucher Speyer Stephanie Eu-Tien Stacy Samuel Boudreaux Steakley Gregory Edwin Steinhelper Chelsey Ann Stevenson Sarah Anne Stevenson Akhir Ali Stewart Lukas Scott Stickel Samantha Josephine Stone Emory Anne Strawn Martin John Strenk Zihan Su Gabriela Lydia Suarez Melanie Sangita Subbiah Grace Lauren Sullivan Madeline Lee Swarr Kathleen Gail Swoapy Stacey Megumi Tamura Heidi Tan Apurva Tandon Katherine Aurelia Tardiff, Summa Cum Laude Zöe Nicole Taylor Elena Rosanne Teaford Kelly Tellez Elise Mary Testa Harold Eric Theurer Audrey Anne Thomas Matthew Wildrick Thomas Chelsea Rose Thomeer, Summa Cume Laude Mairead Dougherty Toms Annika Elisabeth Trapness Brian Newey Trelegan, in abstentia Tatyana Sophia Triguboff Dvivid Trivedi Kaleb Yi-tong Tseo Anthoney Tsou Aunrika. Darsaune Tucker-Shabazz Stephen Dane Tyson Juliana Veira Veronica Veliz Vidya Margaret Venkatesh Jacob Gardner Verter Maria Alejandra Vicent Roshny Sameer Vijayakar Nathaniel Boyd Zillioux Vilas Sara Elisa Vitale Maoli Nicole Vizcaíno Eleanor Rebecca Wachtel Evan Samuel Wahl Rachel Coe Waldman Jaira Danae Walker William Rhys Walker Charlotte Grace Walsh Kevin William Walsh Bowen Wang, Michael Zili Wang Victoria Hong Wang Katherine Ann Wardlaw Jacob William Watt-Morse Sarah Gabrielle Weiser Benjamin Robert Wertz Jocelyn Alys Wexler Alexander Minturn White Wendy Maya Wiberg Gordon Robert Wilford Noah North Williams Rebecca Grace Williams Suyee Win Ashley Nizhoni Wirth Daniel Patrick Ga Heung Wong Austin Bruce Wruble Susan Zhuang Wu Charley Edward Wyser Steven John Yannacone Andy Yu Zhu Yao Tyler Brett Young Gregory Peter Zaffino Sabrina Nicolle Zaldaña Emma Withers Zehner Lucas Carl Zelnick Fan Zhang Nanjing, Zhaoda Zhou. Jeffrey Nobel Rubel, Summa Cum Laude, Class
speaker. Melanie Sangeeta Subbiah, Phi Beta Kappa speaker. Caroline Celeste White-Nockleby, Summa Cum
Laude, class valedictorian. Elizabeth Fall Curtis, Marshal of the Class. Wilfred Garong, Marshal of the Class. Felia Alejandra Moran Olivas, Marshal of the
Class. And Scott Andrew Shelton, Marshal of the Class. Will all members of the senior class please
stand for the conferring of the degree. By virtue of the authority vested in me, I
confer upon you the degree of Bachelor of Arts, entitled to all the rights, honors and
privileges appertaining thereto. Congratulations. You can sit down now. I now call on Jordan Hampton, President of
the Society of Alumni, to welcome our new recipients of degrees. Hello. My name is Jordan Hampton. I’m from the class of ’87, which means that
30 years ago today, I was sitting almost where you are. We were in the science quad. I just found out today that that makes me
a cool geek, which I’m pretty excited about. I’m here today because I have the honor of
serving as the President of the Society of Alumni, and on behalf of our more than 28,000
members, congratulations. In addition to being polished into a beautiful
piece of sea glass, your daily grind has also transformed you from a student into an alumnus. You now join a unique family with a long and
venerable history. A history of emotional and financial commitment
to our alma mater. Our society was formed by a small group of
dedicated Williams graduates in 1821 to save and sustain the college in the face of the
defection of a group of faculty and students to another institution just down the road. Today, the society is, just as it was nearly
200 years ago, a critical link to the college’s past and a foundation for its future. The tradition of alumni support of the college
is the envy of many institutions around the country, and is something in which many of
us take great pride. But what I take pride in even more is how
we support and look out for each other. The society of alumni, while being a steward
of traditions, is also a steward of relationships. The one you have with this place, the ones
you formed during your four years on campus, the ones that await you with Ephs of all ages
across the country and the world. As alumni of Williams College, you will always
be known and cared for by those of us who have gone before you and who share this special
relationship with a small liberal arts college in the northwest corner of Massachusetts. As author Roald Dahl says, there are no strangers
here, just friends you haven’t met. I encourage you to stay involved with Williams
and find those friends, both old and new. Volunteer in your new regional association,
an affinity group, as a class officer or as an agent. Come talk with undergrads about your journey
on your career path, which although you’re just starting out now, promises to be an intriguing
story full of twists and turns. And by the way, no one ever has it all figured
out, even if it might seem that way. Williams will always be your home. Please come back home and visit. And hey, you and I are on the same reunion
cycle, so I’ll see you again in five years. Come as you are, in your dirty car, and with
whatever baggage you have. Don’t worry about where you are in your life
and what you’ve done, come back with all the mixed emotions you might have, returning to
any of the places that you’ve called home. You will find that while the world will change
in many ways, what will not change is the fundamental belief we all share in the value
of receiving an excellent education in a small place where people care about one another
and develop a strange fondness for cows and the color purple. We are all connected to each other, and we
all care about you. Do not hesitate to reach out to any of us
to ask for help, to request information, or just to say hi. We will keep in touch and look for you out
there in the real world. We have your back. Class of 2017, welcome to the society of alumni. Thank you, Jordan. With these ceremonies now drawing to a close,
and in bidding you all farewell, I would remind the audience to remain standing until after
the academic procession has moved out of the area, and ask the new graduates to remain
in line until they have reached Chapin Hall. As is our custom, we will now sing two verses
of The Mountains, after which the chaplain to the college will offer a benediction. You will find the words to The Mountains,
not that you need them, accompanied by our own Williams commencement ensemble, in the
program book. O, proudly rise the monarchs of our mountain
land, With their kingly forest robes, to the sky, Where Alma Mater dwelleth with her chosen
band, And the peaceful river floweth gently by. The mountains! The mountains! We greet them with a song, Whose echoes rebounding their woodland heights
along, Shall mingle with anthems that winds and fountains
sing. Till hill and valley gaily, gaily ring. Beneath their peaceful shadows may old Williams
stand, Till suns and mountains nevermore shall be, The honor and the glory of our mountain land, And the dwelling of the gallant and the free. The mountains! The mountains! We greet them with a song, Whose echoes rebounding their woodland heights
along, Shall mingle with anthems that winds and fountains
sing. Till hill and valley gaily, gaily ring. Four years ago, you chose to bring your living
here, of all places in the world, in order to learn in a way that could only happen if
you held that kind of a stake in it. Now, in the wisdom of tradition and ritual,
that intention has been fulfilled, and learning is a thing that this institution is willing
to certify that you have, and to place the mark of time permanently upon it. But the word learning hovers in a liminal
place in our language. It’s a noun, an accomplishment, a result,
an endowment, something you have. But it’s also a verb of that slippery gerund
kind, a movement, a happening, a vector. It both stays and must be going. Today marks the culmination of a time when,
for you, learning has been something to acquire. Today we have paused to honor and admire what
you’ve done, what you’ve mastered, what you have. But today also marks the passage of your learning
into a new phase of movement. Today, what you have no longer just is, now
it’s on its way. Now it’s becoming. So as you go from this place, may your learning
become wisdom. May the time to come season what you know
with humility and patience and understanding, and may your learning become empathy. May the people you meet and the stories you
hear cause you to put what you know in the service of compassion, and may your learning
become commitment. May the questions you ask and the questions
asked of you move you to enact what you know as principled conviction, and may your learning
become service. May the problems you encounter call you to
pour out in generosity what you know in both your mind and your heart. Learning is becoming. Learning becomes you. Learning stays, it abides you can trust it,
you can lean on it, you can stand on it. And learning must be going. It must be on its way; like you, with you,
for you, and for the world which now waits for you, and which needs so desperately your
wisdom, your empathy, your commitment, your service. So, on your way. With blessings, in peace, so be it. Alleluia, amen. Mr. Sheriff, pray, bring these ceremonies
to a close. The 228th commencement of Williams College
is hereby terminated. God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 17 Williams College
Williams College Commencement June 4 2017 1

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