Mount Holyoke College Commencement 2011

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A standing-room-only audience of families, friends, alumnae, and other members of the Mount Holyoke community cheered on nearly 600 graduates as they received their diplomas Sunday, May 22 in the College's 174th annual commencement.

Philosopher and author Martha Craven Nussbaum gave the commencement address and received an honorary degree. Honorary degrees were also presented to former Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Margaret Marshall, California educator and mentor Nancy A. Mellor '59, and noted biologist and sustainability developer Gordon Sato.

In her remarks to the graduates, Nussbaum spoke about the strengths and continuing importance of a liberal arts education in an increasingly complex world focused on concrete skills and fast profits.

"In 50 years, the world may remember the sort of education Mount Holyoke provides as a distant memory. If that is the way the future unfolds, the world will be a scary place to live in. What will we have, if these trends continue? Nations of technically trained people who don't know how to criticize authority, useful profit makers with obtuse imaginations," Nussbaum said. "But the future does not have to unfold this way. It is in our hands, and, especially, in the hands of all of you, who are giving and receiving (a liberal) education--you know its value, and will come to know it more as the years go on."

Sato told the graduates time is short to solve world's problems; noting the plight of women in many places around the world, he called for the equality of women everywhere. Mellor challenged those "who have not yet become aware of your dreams, your capabilities, or your practical contributions to the world."

"My vision for you is to turn your ideas into yet-unknown reality, using the skills and attitudes you have developed during your years here at Mount Holyoke," she said.

Marshall, a native of South Africa, recalled feeling realtively helpless when she graduated during "the darkest days of apartheid"--but later realizing its end was brought about "by countless acts, small and insignificant seeming, of many individuals." Quoting Senator Robert F. Kennedy, she told the graduates to "never succumb to the danger of futility, the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills."

Zehra Nabi '11 gave the student address to her classmates--who, in a nod to their class color, each carried a bright yellow sunflower.

"While graduating might be exciting, leaving Mount Holyoke is a bittersweet experience. We will all miss the faculty who pushed us to think critically and creatively, and who often treated us more like fellow scholars than students. We will miss the staff who worked behind the scenes tirelessly and made this place a home for us," Nabi said. "We will take different memories with us, but each of us will be forever in debt to Mount Holyoke for these experiences."

The ceremony was seen around the globe via a live webcast, and events of the day were shared with students and alumnae in real time on Twitter. For the first time, the College offered a mobile-friendly experience for smartphone users, as well as an opportunity for parents and friends to post their their own photos and videos to be viewed by others. Additional photos and video can be viewed on Flick'r and Facebook.