2007 Commencement

Baccalaureate Address
Diana Pho '07
May 26, 2007

Good evening fellow graduates and alumni, faculty and staff, friends and family. Tonight, I ask you one question: do you believe in ghosts? We have all heard about them: those stories that people tell you during first year after orientation has long ended. About a certain room in Wilder. Or about the bridge on Lower Lake. Or, about the Whispering Woman calling you at 2 am. On this campus, ghost stories bring something from the past alive in our imaginations. And we laugh--of course--it's only a story. It's not true. There are no ghosts at Mount Holyoke, right?

But in actuality, ghosts are all around us. And I mean besides our founder Mary Lyon, though her spirit has been mentioned often enough on campus. The people from the past exist in the names of the buildings we know: Mary E. Woolley, Betty Shabazz, Cornelia M. Clapp, Emma Perry Carr, Alice Withington Rooke. But ghosts also walk alongside us through campus. They eat with us at mealtimes, sit in the stacks reading books, lie with us on Skinner Green. These ghosts cannot be seen, or heard, or touched, because these are the ghosts of memories. They exist not for us, but for the thousands of other women who have passed through this campus. Talk to an alumna, and you'll see the memories come alive within her.

With each passing day, however, we also leave behind our own ghosts in the spaces where we had lived. These ghosts are the memories of ourselves. A myriad of senses and feelings from Mount Holyoke will become fossilized in our minds. Listening to the bells ring out every hour. Sharing laughter with friends in the dining hall. Tasting a warm Chef Jeff cookie. Watching the colors of the sunset fade over red stone. Kicking through the fallen autumn leaves on the way to class. Hearing students shout that someone's "hot" during Orientation 101 or J-show or cultural nights. Feeling the winter's bitter cold, the spring's returning warmth, or the falling rain that fills the streets with puddles. Indeed, time creates these ghosts even now. For instance, the time we have here is the moment of graduation. And when we get our diplomas, we will clap and cheer and cry, but afterwards, all that will remain are the echoes of our voices and the memory.

Yet these years spent here will never change or fade or grow old for us. And neither will the impact Mount Holyoke has had on our lives. This is the impact found in learning, not only through books, but through people as well: your friends, your professors, your coaches and mentors. We will keep these memories, along with hundreds more, for they serve as a reflection of the community that we created during our years here. So remember that professor's class you loved, or that roommate you hated, or that time you stayed up all night with someone, just talking. Remember bad grades and breakups and running late to the PVTA. Remember debates and arguments, group protests and "group drama." Remember smiles and making Nationals and those wild nights off campus. Every memory, good or bad, made us into who we are right now. So accept all of these memories and, if you cannot cherish them, learn from them. As long as we are living, we can always learn.

For unlike the static existence of ghosts, we are constantly changing. And we have been changed by Mount Holyoke. People will see the memory of Mount Holyoke become alive within us, even if we never speak of this place to them. They will see it in the accomplishments we achieve, the discoveries we find, the lessons we teach others. We will live motivated by the spirit we had witnessed and embraced at this college.

Thus, let us remember our past selves and let the things we have learned carry us toward the future. We came here wondering what to believe. We leave here believing in ourselves and in everything we carry within us: our knowledge and passions, our joys and fears, our experiences more real than any supernatural being. So stand proud, my fellow graduates. We may be leaving behind our ghosts at Mount Holyoke, but we continue forward into the world spreading our living memories.

Thank you.

Related Links:

An Oratorical Farewell: Seniors Gather for 2007 Baccalaureate Service

2007 Commencement Home Page