September 24, 2010
It is a privilege and a delight to be here today on behalf of the tremendously loyal alumnae and the Board of Directors of the Alumnae Association of Mount Holyoke College.
We know from personal experience the power and lifelong effect that this college has on the geographically and culturally diverse women who come here. Our 35,000 alumnae—on every continent, in a stunning range of fields and in countless areas of human endeavor—are using their Mount Holyoke education as a catalyst for change in the world. They are distinguished by their willingness to step fearlessly into situations where others hesitate to go, to work for improvement on the most challenging of issues, from the local to the global, from remote locations to the most public of arenas.
Long before today, Mount Holyoke women stood together in this very place and heard these words, which ring as true today as they did in 1901 when president Mary E. Woolley gave her inaugural address:
“The outlook for the college woman...has no horizon, no boundary line. In the complex civilization of our times, with its economic unrest, its social inequalities, its broad gulf between the enormously wealthy and the bitterly poor ... let no woman ... complain that there is no room for labor.”
More than 100 years later, our alumnae remain engaged in that life-changing labor, a dedication to the common good, and there is no better example than our new president, Lynn Pasquerella. As an alumna of this institution and as our new leader, President Pasquerella embodies the value of a woman’s education as an instrument of moral leadership and social change. She personifies the Mount Holyoke commitment to cultivating the mind while nurturing the “will to do.”
Our graduates are leading the charge in improving the lives of others. They are educators who create and build schools for women and girls, a record that begins with Susan Mills, class of 1845, who established the Mills College for Women, and continues to Sadiqa Basiri Saleem ’09, founder of six schools for girls and women in her homeland of Afghanistan. They are leaders in social justice and experts in public health, fighting female genocide and human trafficking in India and Indonesia; working with AIDS patients in Boston’s lower-income areas; establishing children’s health programs in Guatemala, Mexico, and Haiti. They are farmers and food activists, creating sustainable food solutions and managing organic farms in major cities such as Brooklyn and Los Angeles and in rural areas from upstate New York to the Western Cape of South Africa. They are award-winning scientists, researching global warming and leading observations in astronomy labs; they are businesswomen, creating entrepreneurial opportunities for women in India and serving as presidents of major banks and international corporations. They are parents, volunteers, and community activists, raising the next generation of informed citizens, serving in women’s shelters, at food pantries, on school boards, and on the board of trustees of this college. In all arenas, Mount Holyoke women exemplify leadership and an uncommon “will to do.”
President Pasquerella, just as alumnae welcome graduating seniors and then march behind them in solidarity in the Laurel Chain parade, so, too, as we witness this historic occasion, in person and online, will we join together to march forward with you as you craft the future of our college. We welcome you with joy and with unabashed pride.
(Note: This printed text may vary from the speech delivered.)