2011 Final Lecture Entertains and Inspires

By Emi Estelle '11

With commencement weekend seemingly a breath a way, hundreds of seniors gathered Thursday evening in Hooker auditorium for Final Lecture. The event, which has become a tradition at Mount Holyoke, gives soon-to-be graduates the opportunity to listen to the sage advice of a handpicked group of faculty and staff.

Prior to the event--organized by the class of 2011 Commencement Committee--seniors were able vote for the members of the Mount Holyoke faculty and staff they wanted to hear speak at their last official "lecture" as undergraduates. The class chose dean of students Rene Davis, associate dean Tanya Williams, and professors Robin Blaetz and Jim Hartley. Advice from the speakers focused on the benefits of lifelong learning.

Hartley, an economics professor, stressed the importance of continuing education on a personal level long after graduation.

"Your education doesn't end on Sunday when you graduate," he said. "Your education starts when you wake up on Monday."

A specialist in the great books of Western civilization, Hartley recommended seniors make a list of six classics they have not yet read and make a promise to read them all within a year.

"You should want to learn this stuff because it matters, not just because it's assigned," he said.

In what she referred to as a "heart to heart," Davis also encouraged seniors to continue to learn and draw from their Mount Holyoke experience as they go out into the world.

"Your journey as a critical thinker will continue to evolve," she said. "I want to welcome you into your new journey."

Film professor Blaetz used the opening sequence of the 1951 Gene Kelly movie An American in Paris as a parallel for the journey upon which seniors are about to embark.

"This is a movie that I love," and one that seniors can learn a lot from, she said. Like Gene Kelly's character in the film, Blaetz told this year's seniors to "follow your heart, not what is expected of you. Dance your way through even the most mundane parts of your life. Move through the world like Gene Kelly."

Williams, the associate dean of students for diversity and inclusion, also shared her advice for the graduating class. "Let your being shape your doing, not the other way around."

Angela Trowbridge '11, a senior in attendance, said the event had "a little something for everyone--a nice mix of anecdotes, jokes, and advice. It cultivated a sense of togetherness."

Williams sounded that last sentiment in her closing remarks, as well. Although this year's graduates will miss being at Mount Holyoke, she reassured her audience that they can return to their alma mater anytime.

"Mount Holyoke exists within you," she said.