to Be a Virtuoso Performance: Sara Curtin '02 Speaks for
the Class of 2002
Photo: Fred LeBlanc
Curtin '02 at her April violin recital in Pratt Hall
After three years
spent mentoring her fellow students in the art of public speaking,
Sara Curtin '02 is taking her turn in the spotlight. Curtin will
deliver the student address at this Sunday's commencement ceremony,
taking the podium between the opening remarks by Acting President
Beverly Daniel Tatum and the speech by Queen Noor of Jordan.
For Curtin, an English
major with a minor in music, being chosen by her peers to deliver
the student address at commencement is the fulfillment of a four-year
dream, and a milestone for one who has worked hard to become an
effective leader and communicator.
"She has really
developed very, very deeply and very profoundly into a very good
speaker," said Vincent Ferraro, Ruth C. Lawson Professor
of Politics. For three years, Curtin served as a Speaking, Arguing,
and Writing Program (SAW) mentor in Speaking and Arguing: The
Rhetoric of Peace and War taught by Ferraro. "She is in control
of herself, and in control of her arguments," he said.
For Curtin, some of
the appeal of becoming an accomplished speaker lay in the fact
that it was not a skill that came naturally to her. "It's
one of those things that I had to push myself to do because I
was afraid of it in a lot of ways," she confesses with a
smile. I think part of the rush of it is the fear, and so overcoming
that and being successful at it after having been so afraid is
"Sara is very
bright and conscientious and an extremely hard worker," said
Tamara Burk, director of the Weissman Center's SAW Program, who
has worked with Curtin. "When I look at Sara, it reinforces
for me what the Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Program is all
about," Burk said. "She is a class act. She's one of
It was during her
first year on campus that Curtin set herself the goal of competing
for the honor of delivering the student address. In the summer
of 2001, she turned her attention to her speech, determined to
give herself plenty of time to develop something "really
good." But as summer gave way to fall, and fall to winter,
the right idea just would not come.
In April, with the
deadline just one week away, inspiration finally arrived. "I
started thinking about how beautiful the campus is, and there
are certain times of the year when there are things that stand
out for me," she says, recalling a particularly vivid memory
of standing near Mary Lyon Hall in the springtime, watching seed
pods showering from a tree. "That just was magical to me,
and so that kind of inspired the beginning, I talk about the seeds
and about different places on campus. That started it, and everything
just came from that."
The draft of the speech
she wrote and entered into the judging was one of seventeen strong
entries postedwith authors' names removed on a bulletin
board at Blanchard Campus Center. For two weeks, her fellow seniors
read the drafts and cast their votes for their favorites. When
she learned that she had won, "I was so excited. I ran down
the hall and knocked on the door of my friend's roomshe
was on the phoneand we just started jumping up and down.
It was something that I've wanted to do for so long that I was
just blown away I didn't actually think that I was going
to get it."
This will not be Curtin's
first audience, of course, or even her largest audience: While
attending high school in nearby Chicopee, Massachusetts, she performed
a violin solo with the Young People's Symphony in Springfield's
Symphony Hall. Her musical interestsperhaps inherited from
her father, whom, she says, "used to play a lot of instruments"
led her to join with Lisa Utzinger '02 to found the Mount
Holyoke Symphony Orchestra two years ago.
Music was the source
of what Curtin considers her greatest accomplishment, the violin
recital she performed in Pratt Hall in April. "It wasn't
something that I had to do; it was something that I decided to
do because I knew that it was going to be so hard for me,"
she says. "I was completely freaking out the week before
the recital here. Then I was in a performance with the orchestra
here, and all of a sudden it clicked that I was playing the wrong
kind of mind game with myself." When the fear melted away,
"it was fun, it was exciting."
When Curtin speaks,
she will address an audience that includes her parents, Stella
and Mark; an older brother, Tim; a younger sister, Angie (a sophomore
at Smith College); and a younger brother, Zack (a senior at the
Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter High School in Hadley).
When she told her parents that she had been chosen to deliver
the address, "my mom cried. I knew she was going to. They're
all very excited about it."
Curtin hopes to find a position that will allow her to use her
speaking and writing skills to be an advocate for land preservation.
She promises to keep an open mind, though, if the Boston Symphony
Orchestra comes knocking. "I would love to play professionally
in an orchestra!" she says. Perhaps, she will even start