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College Celebrates 165th Commencement May 26

Fulbright Scholarship to Take Jennifer W. Kyker '02 to Zimbabwe

Boram Lee '04 Wins International Public Policy Fellowship

Suchi Saria '04 Wins Full- Tuition Scholarship from Microsoft

Sure to Be a Virtuoso Performance: Sara Curtin '02 Speaks for the Class of 2002

Red Pegasus Class Takes Wing

DAAD Scholarship Music to the Ears of Katherine Kaiser '02

2002–2003 Budget Meets Financial Goals of Plan for 2003

Storm Ends Everest Bid Just Short of Summit

Students Teach Each Other about Bioethics by "Cloning" National Council

Mount Holyoke Actors Take to the Italian Stage

Three Faculty Members Retire as Emeriti

Mary Renda: Teaching Students to Think Historically

Theresa Grof: Fulfilling a Dream at MHC

Weissman Center Honors Students

On Broadway with Suzan-Lori Parks '85

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May 24, 2002

Sure to Be a Virtuoso Performance: Sara Curtin '02 Speaks for the Class of 2002


Photo: Fred LeBlanc

Sara 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 great."

"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 the best."

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 posted—with 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 room—she was on the phone—and 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 interests—perhaps 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."

After graduation, 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 her own.

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