Palpable enthusiasm animated Gettell Amphitheater Wednesday morning as the class of 2008, attired all in blue, their class color, joined with faculty, staff, underclasswomen--and a few remaining parents, perhaps unready to bid fond farewells to their first-year daughters--to kick the 171st academic year in the College's history into high gear.
Seniors, always exuberant for the ceremony, were doubtless further fueled by the stunning beauty of the day, a perfect example, with its resplendent sunlight and wispy clouds, of how lovely early September in New England can be.
In fact, the crystal and electric blue wigs, masks, balloons, cardboard cutouts, leis, and noise sticks carried by the class seemed to mirror the blue from the sky above, into which their intermittent chants of " '08! '08!" rose throughout the ceremony.
Between inspirational opening words from Gladys Moore, the new dean of religious and spiritual life and director of diversity and inclusion, and closing remarks by Anita Magovern, chaplain to the College and advisor to the Catholic Community, several members of the Mount Holyoke community, including Kathleen B. Adler '08, president of the Student Government Association; Russell Boudreau, cochair of Staff Council; President Joanne V. Creighton; and Penny Gill, Mary Lyon Professor of Humanities and Professor of Politics, addressed the oft cheering crowd.
A musical performance of Ben Allaway's Freedom Come was provided by the Mount Holyoke College Glee Club, led by Kimberly Dunn, interim choral director and lecturer in music.
Kathleen Adler '08 of Lilburn, Georgia, the president of the Student Government Association, spoke of the choice that Mount Holyoke students make in attending this single-sex institution, while plugging SGA participation:
"While many of our illustrious alums had no choice but to attend all women's colleges, we have been given the choice to come to Mount Holyoke. We have taken a now seemingly unusual path: a path that leads to confidence, intelligence, and limitless opportunity. A path that creates women who are not afraid to stand up to countless obstacles and demand equality for women. A path that allows us to set aside our differences and come together to make changes and improve not only the community, but ourselves. Today it is up to us, the current generation of Mount Holyoke women, to continue the legacy left to us by our alums. To continue to be the articulate, confident, and generally just amazing women that Mount Holyoke has cultivated. And it is my hope that our student government can represent the ideals that embody the Mount Holyoke woman."
On behalf of the College staff members, Russell Boudreau, HVAC/utilities specialist, said, "I can say that seeing you return to campus is rejuvenating. You bring with you the enthusiasm and the energy that make this college special."
Known for his wry sense of humor, Boudreau observed, "This is my 33rd convocation. My very first, I was one of the folks who put the boxes of sit-upons at the back, by the colonnade. It only took me 32 years to make my way to the stage. Watch out President Creighton, if I can manage another 32 years I may be in line for an office in Mary Lyon."
In her welcoming greeting "to the oldest and boldest women's college in the world," President Joanne V. Creighton updated students on the summer progress of construction of a new "green" residence hall and track and field facility on campus as well as her travels to India, Italy, and other nations to make connections with women's institutions--and Mount Holyoke alumnae--abroad.
"From early days until now," Creighton said, "Mount Holyoke graduates spanned the globe. And now, women from all over the world come here as well. Per square mile, this little college in western Mass. is one of the most cosmopolitan places on earth! We are a truly international college with a notably diverse faculty and student body. Our faculty--with 25 percent people of color and 30 percent foreign born--is the most diverse among any of our peers, coed or single sex. And so too is our student body the most diverse--with roughly 40 percent of our students either ALANA or international, from every state in the nation and 70 countries of the world. This is deliberately so. All the people of the world are one human community sharing one fragile earth. Mount Holyoke is a microcosm of that world. Our goal is to build community out of diversity amid countless examples throughout the world of failed communities. It is not always easy. But it is always a worthy goal."
Gill, delivering remarks for the occasion, urged students not to concentrate completely on following a rigid life plan, a "Plan A," but to open themselves to the chances and possibilities of life, in other words, a "Plan B":
"So, as you think about your education and about this year, which courses you will take, which neat idea for a research project you will pursue, how you will use your non-class time and energy, and yes, which internship or study abroad opportunity you will apply for, please don't let your Plan A swamp or silence your openness to Plan B. Claim your own education to nurture your own curiosity about the world and your dreams for your place in it."
Further into her remarks, Gill continued with this theme: "So, as you prepare to go out into a world quite desperate for creative and responsible leadership, it is OK to keep a Plan A. But don't surrender to it. Nurture Plan B. Welcome the unexpected and celebrate your freedom to say yes. It's the Plan B folks who will be poised to heal this tragic world of its many terrors."
Led by the Glee Club, the Alma Mater was sung by all, or most, in attendance. Anita McGovern closed the ceremony with an encouraging blessing. The annual picnic took place on Skinner Green. The smell of grilling hotdogs, hamburgers, and their vegetarian equivalents swirled above the rolling lawn. And another school year was under way.
(Please note: Recorded speeches may differ in small details from texts provided to the Office of Communications and posted online in conjunction with this story.)
Audio - Katie Adler '08
(QuickTime: 3.3 MB, Time: 7:17)
Audio - Russell Boudreau
(QuickTime: 1.9 MB, Time: 4:07)
Audio - President Creighton
(QuickTime: 5.2 MB, Time: 11:14)
Audio - Penny Gill
(QuickTime: 5.6 MB, Time: 12:08)