By Hilda Chen Apuy '44
May 28, 2006
I would like to thank the President of Mount Holyoke Joanne Creighton and the faculty members for the great honor bestowed on me. I feel not only very grateful, but also moved because I never expected it. I confess that I am very happy to have this opportunity to return to Mount Holyoke College because the time spent here as a young student more than 60 years ago has always been in my memory. It was thanks to a scholarship awarded to me by this institution that I came here as a 20-year-old university student during World War II. It was my first trip abroad, at a time when very few female Costa Rican students dared to travel abroad for further studies.
I became acquainted with a great academic institution. I have never forgotten the excellent professors who taught me history of art, philosophy of art, American literature, and creative writing. I believe that was an excellent beginning for advanced studies in other universities, in different parts of the world, and this I have never forgotten.
Every educational institution in which I studied, beginning with the University of Costa Rica, added something very valuable in my preparation, not only in academic training, but also in personal enrichment, thus, contributing to my philosophy of life and to place values for being useful during the following years. Hence, I acquired a compromise to work for respect to all kinds of people and tolerance for the different cultural values and religious creeds: this in order to contribute to peace in the world.
Fortunately, having been born in Costa Rica, a small country in Central America, made me aware since childhood of the values of peace and democracy because Costa Rica abolished its army in the Constitution approved in 1949 and, since then, we, Costa Ricans, know that dialogue is the best solution for human conflicts.
My study period in India at Banaras Hindu University in 1956-1957 taught me valuable principles of Indian philosophy, among which, one has been my guide for 50 years. It is one of the philosophical teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita, which tells us that we have the right to act, but not to the fruits of our action. We should never be guided by personal interests in obtaining rewards for what we do. We have to fulfill our personal duty, which in Sanskrit, the classical language of India, is ' Svadharma ', that is the duty for which everyone is born.
Another principle I learned along life is that we are just part of a chain of persons that must serve and give back what we receive. Service must be our goal in life, not personal profit.
To end these reflections, I have to add that the more we walk in our life path, the less we know. We are always students willing and open to continue our learning because the "Mountain of Wisdom" is always far away; the more we walk toward it, the more distant we find it is. That must be so because we never finish our search for wisdom.
Honorary Degree Citation
Hilda Chen Apuy '44