It's been 32 years since Lynn Pasquerella attended her first opening convocation at Mount Holyoke College. This week the 1980 MHC graduate experienced the event from an entirely new perspective--that of president.
"My first convocation at Mount Holyoke (also) took place on September 7," said Pasquerella, who became MHC's eighteenth president July 1. "It was 1978, and at the time, I could not have known its significance in marking the beginning of an educational experience that would transform my life and bring me full circle."
This year's campus gathering in Gettell Amphitheater marked the beginning of the College's 174th year and the official welcome to the class of 2014. The enthusiasm of the first-year students dressed in their class color of red was outdone only by that of the class of 2011. Although the seniors wore graduation robes to signify they've reached their final year of study, they adorned those robes and themselves in bright yellow, from daisy headpieces and yellow parasols, to yellow submarines, bumblebees, and even a Pac-Man.
The day's party atmosphere prevailed throughout the student body, with the class of 2012 dressed in blue, the class of 2013 in green, and the Frances Perkins Scholars in purple. Together they greeted MHC's new president with a thunderous standing ovation. Pasquerella told them she "found a new home" when she first came to Mount Holyoke.
"This kinship went beyond those with whom I was studying in South Hadley. It spanned across generations and resulted in an embrace that extended around the world," she said. "The personal relationships you forge at Mount Holyoke will be with a world-class faculty who will challenge you to excel, an amazingly dedicated staff who will offer a stunningly beautiful campus and a nurturing environment in which you can thrive, an alumnae network which will always be there to support you, and peers who will provide inspiration, friendship, and love."
Lucas Wilson, associate professor of African American studies and economics, spoke on behalf of the faculty and addressed the optimism of the moment.
"The tendency at a time like this is to imagine there are no limits to individual human imagination and accomplishment," said Wilson. "The enthusiasm, the neophyte excitement of joining a distinguished tradition of Mount Holyoke women, who quietly and determinedly go about doing wonderful work in the world, this energy encourages a tendency to feel that anything is possible.
"Given this tendency… someone should offer a word or two about the inevitable disappointment that comes when we slowly begin to realize that no matter how high we leap, what counts is how sure-footed we are when we come back down."
Staff representative and associate dean of the college Tanya O. Williams talked about mentoring at Mount Holyoke.
"I want to introduce the idea of reciprocal mentorship--a concept that helps us all understand that we each have something to learn from one another--be that staff to student, student to faculty, faculty to staff, or staff to administration, and so on," she told students. "It is through our connection that we transform the world, and it is in our shared mentorship of one another that Mount Holyoke reaches new heights."
Student Government Association president Marija Tesla '11 also spoke of mentorship. Faculty guidance, she noted, "gave me the courage to do what I never thought possible, to dare, to explore, and to take risks and chances."
"Their support and encouragement sent me this summer to Croatia, the country of my birth. After 15 years I had the courage to revisit my past while also conducting academic research on migration and memory, focusing on the war of my childhood," said Tesla. "Mentorship is a gift that expands; on my journey I was able to give strength and comfort to the women I spoke to, none of which would have been possible without the Mount Holyoke faculty, staff, administration, and fellow peers who mentored me along the way."
Between addresses, the amphitheater audience was treated to a rousing performance by the Mount Holyoke Glee Club of "Ke Nale Monna," a traditional Sotho song personalized with references to the "sisters of 2011" and "sister Lynn P." Rev. Gladys G. Moore opened the convocation, which was concluded with a singing of the Alma Mater and remarks from the College's Muslim advisor, Elizaveta Lozovaya.
Following the convocation, students, faculty, staff, and guests were treated to a community picnic on Skinner Green.
See the convocation photo gallery.