2006 Commencement

Honorary Degree Address
By Kitty Kyriacopoulos '45
May 28, 2006

Dear president, professors, alumnae, and friends,

First and foremost I wish to thank President Joanne V. Creighton and Mount Holyoke College for the great honor they bestowed on me today.

When I graduated with a physics and math major in 1945, little did I dream that one day I would be considered a successful businesswoman.

As I look back on my life, I realize how lucky I was to be brought up by international parents, who were most demanding of me both ethically and educationwise.

By the way, I was born in Bucharest, Romania, not in Athens, and brought up in England and France before arriving in Greece at the age of 13, having lost both my brothers, thus remaining an only child and not speaking a word of Greek. The culture shock was great, and just as I was adjusting, we were obliged to leave with one suitcase in hand due to the Second World War so as to escape from the pending invasion of Greece by the Nazis.

The trip was an odyssey through Egypt, the Red Sea, South Africa, across the Atlantic to Trinidad and, eventually, arriving in New York harbor three months later. A sight I shall never forget. Skyscrapers, as I had never seen before, rising above the morning mist.

No sooner in New York I applied to five colleges, and although it was already August, I was amazed to be accepted by four of them. I decided to choose between Smith College and Mount Holyoke because they were near Amherst where I had a childhood friend. Upon his advice I finally chose Mount Holyoke. I have never regretted it. Mount Holyoke´s friendliness toward foreigners, its education. All the experience I acquired having to work my way through college was most useful in my later career as a businesswoman.

All of you who are graduating today are, like me, extremely lucky to have attended MHC. May the experiences in your future life be as successful as mine. First, as a wife; then as a mother of two wonderful children, Ulysses and Florica, of the class of 1976; and four grandchildren (whose ages range from one to 25 years old); and last, as a businesswoman after my father´s death in 1970.

Take my advice and never let anything stop you. "If there is a will, there will always be a way."

I shall never forget going to tour our mines for the first time and asking to visit our underground galleries. After a long silence, one of the more courageous engineers explained to me that it was considered bad luck for a lady to go underground. I immediately retorted, "Gentlemen, I am not a lady, I am the managing director. You can follow me or not, but I am going." Today this is not only acceptable, but there are many women geologists, just like, for instance, my daughter-in-law, Nicole.

The world has changed over the last 60 years and Greece is no exception.

So here is wishing you the best of luck and success in all your endeavors, but wherever that may take you, remember Mount Holyoke College and try to help a younger person to attend our College.

I for one want to thank MHC again for the wonderful education it offered me, which taught me to analyze, to distinguish between the important and the trivial, which has stood me well in all my endeavors.

Thank you.

Related Links:

Honorary Degree Citation
Kitty Kyriacopoulos '45

2006 Commencement Home Page