MHC to Host 176th Commencement

Mount Holyoke will celebrate four distinguished Women of Influence and more than 600 graduates when the College hosts its 176th commencement on Sunday, May 19, in the Richard Glenn Gettell Amphitheater. 

For the first time in its history, the College will confer its annual honorary degrees exclusively to alumnae, beginning with commencement speaker and noted social justice advocate Kavita N. Ramdas ’85, who will be joined by nutrition expert Joanne R. Lupton ’66, award-winning filmmaker Mary Mazzio ’83, and former White House deputy chief of staff Mona K. Sutphen ’89. The event concludes the College’s yearlong celebration of its 175th anniversary.

There will be other firsts for students, their families, and alumnae this year: While the College has live-streamed the commencement ceremony for the past several years, this year those who cannot attend will also be able to view Saturday morning’s Laurel Parade—one of Mount Holyoke’s most beloved traditions—via a webcam set on the steps of Skinner Hall. Saturday evening’s Baccalaureate service will also be live-streamed via the web around the world.

In addition, families and friends attending Sunday’s commencement have been given reusable water bottles to fill and bring to the ceremony, replacing the hundreds of plastic bottles of water typically distributed to the audience. The eco-friendly change is the result of the initiative taken by the student chapter of Think Outside the Bottle, led by graduating senior Rebecca Neubardt and the College’s Sustainable Water Committee.

The College will confer 616 bachelor of arts degrees during Sunday’s ceremony, including 43 that will go to Frances Perkins Scholars. Additionally, three students will receive a master of arts; two have earned a master of arts in teaching (MAT); two will receive certificates for postbaccalaureate study; and another 17 will receive international student certificates.

Jenna McCutcheon Ruddock ’13 has been chosen to give the student address. A politics major with a history minor, Ruddock has focused her undergraduate career on public service and the legal rights of underrepresented communities in the United States and abroad. Following commencement, she will relocate to Washington, D.C., to work for U.S. Senate majority Leader Harry Reid; she will attend George Washington University Law School in the fall.

Commencement weekend at Mount Holyoke includes some of its most cherished and time-honored traditions. On Saturday, May 18, the alumnae parade and laurel chain ceremony will begin at Woolley Circle at 9 am, when members of the class of 2013—dressed in white to honor the suffragettes and carrying a chain of laurel leaves—will be led by returning alumnae in a procession to the grave of the College's founder, Mary Lyon. There they will be joined by MHC president Lynn Pasquerella ’80 and Alumnae Association president Cynthia L. Reed ’80 to place the garland at the gravesite. (Note: The graveside ceremony will not be webcast.)

At 9 pm Saturday, graduates will participate in the Baccalaureate service in Abbey Chapel, where they will be addressed by Professor of Astronomy M. Darby Dyar, Assistant Professor of Physics Alexi Arango, and graduating senior Grace P. B. Hudkins. In addition, graduate Lauren E. Abbate will read her poem “Evergreen.”

Baccalaureate is followed by the canoe sing, which will begin at 10:30 pm on Lower Lake; 12 canoes, illuminated by lanterns, will carry selected seniors to Upper Lake as they and classmates along the banks of the lake sing songs in celebration of commencement.

On Sunday, May 19, the commencement procession to Gettell Amphitheater will begin at 10 am, followed by the start of the commencement ceremony at 10:30 am. (In the event of rain, the ceremony will be held in Kendall Field House.) There will also be a closed-circuit telecast to Hooker Auditorium and Blanchard Campus Center.

Twitter fans will be able to follow the event through live tweets via @mtholyoke or through the hashtag #MHC2013. Live streaming of the event will begin shortly before the commencement procession steps off.

For biographies of the honorary degree recipients, see the February 27, 2013 announcement.