Lynn Pasquerella

Baccalaureatte 2014

Lynn Pasquerella, President Mount Holyoke College

Good morning, and welcome family and friends, faculty and staff, and our honored guests. And—most of all—I’d like to extend an especially warm welcome to the Mount Holyoke College Class of 2014. As distinguished as this group behind me looks, I must say that no one tops a senior on commencement day. Congratulations!  You made it!

To be honest, I’m sure there were times when you didn’t know if we would get here. The winter was so long and so harsh, it felt to all of us that spring and this glorious moment might never come. In fact, one of you shared a story with me of just how desperate this relentless winter made us. Walking down the slope near Mary Lyon’s grave during a particularly miserable day of snow and ice, you braced against the wind and heard another student yell, “Spring is a social construct!!” Who says we don’t purposefully enrage, oh no, it’s engage, with the world??

But then maybe this winter, like so many of us, has a difficult time letting go. Twenty-four hours ago, you carried garlands of laurel and took that last walk with your classmates around the Rockies and Skinner, behind the sturdy red brick of Brigham and Safford and, alongside Blanchard where I know it takes only the slightest of suggestions to smell freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. But, I know it was more than cookies that you were thinking about yesterday. I know you were remembering many of the personal struggles and the joys you experienced here. And—if you were lucky—moments of such stunning intellectual transcendence, they took your breath away.

I hope that yesterday’s walk through memories and that incomparable mob of cheering Mount Holyoke alumnae made you feel a connection to this remarkable place. A connection that feels ineffable and necessary, like breathing. But here’s the thing: just as you feel that connection, we do, too.

To Mary Lyon’s daring gamble and to you. It’s because of the work we do: wrestling with ideas, creating new understanding and trying as best as we can to make the world a better place. Each of us. All of us. Together.

So savor this day. Hug especially hard. Thank a professor or two or three or four.  Look your family in the eye and tell them you are so very grateful and then take your next step, confident in who you are and confident that you always will have this place, these friends, and our days together to surround you.