Castellino's Baccalaureate Address
Following is the
baccalaureate speech delivered by Sonya J. Castellino '02 for
the 2002 commencement weekend.
Four years ago, five
hundred girls entered the gates of this small college in South
Hadley. Fresh faced, they anticipated adventure and knowledge.
We, the class of 2002, exit the journey now, each with the precious
and well-earned title of "woman." We taught to and learned
from each other; we grew into a strong community. Our experiences
definitely shaped us, and the foundation we gained at Mount Holyoke
allows us to enter the world to make our marks.
Not too long ago,
we all received enticing promotional material stating that Mount
Holyoke College is the place for women who want to make
a difference. I am proud to recognize that we have risen to this
grand challenge repeatedly. Amongst our graduating class we have
academic and social-change award winners, authors, mothers, financial
independents, team captains and even the two women who initiated
the first-ever Mount Holyoke Orchestra. Though we shared laughs
about such hackneyed phrases as "proactive" and "future
leaders," we have steadily become women worthy of such adjectives
as those college brochures promised.
As we leave the protective
gates of Mount Holyoke, we will be asked about what we did here,
as our school is such a well-kept secret. In fact, a relative
of mine recently asked why women need colleges of their own. The
familiar question goes something like this: "what do they
teach you at that all girls school?" My reply began with:
Excuse me, but I attend a womens college
the years to come, how will you describe Mount Holyoke women? What
will you be proud enough of, to recall?
You might begin with
our unique diversity: socio-economic, cultural, racial, age, and
religious, just to name a few. There were five cultural houses
on campus and nine major faith groups represented. Our most popular
majors were English and Psychology. We were as full of Sarahs
and Kathryns as we were of athletes in sports from Field Hockey
to Ice Hockey.
mention that we were surrounded by wonderful resourcesan
amazing library, a delightful greenhouse, and the most officially
beautiful campusand we supported them. We "committeed"
ourselves so that we could bask in the freedoms and empowerment
of cultural organizations and self-scheduled exams. We swarmed
Blanchard Café in search of Chef Jeffs, larger-than-life
We congregated in Abbey Chapel.
Dont ever forget
that we continued time-honored traditions. First-year memories
were marked by gatherings for M and Cs, jamming the Mountain Day
hotline, and possibly reaching the top of Skinner Mountain with
a brown bag lunch. We also woke to a weeks worth of surprises,
the kindness of which we returned as sophomores, in an event called
elfing. As juniors, we wrote and starred in an original musical
in which we were "caught red-handed." As seniors, we
rose and robed at 6 am to eat ice cream at the grave of our beloved
founding mother, Mary Lyon. Senior privileges included little
sisters, library carrels, and useful keychains.
For every recollection,
however, remember to also look forward because the challenge of
making a difference really begins now. It is to uphold our youthful
fervor, as we simultaneously blend into life as alums. There will
be no more weeks of sweatpant-wearing. It will be hard to plan
life around television shows, we wont have time for naps
and Im sorry to point out that grab n
go is not available in most homes. In fact, we will face many
responsibilities unbeknownst to us, since most of us lived on
campus, like walking dogs and blowing out candles before we leave
our humble abodes.
We are lucky to have
called this place our home. We were nurtured, spoiled even, by
our parents, staff, and peers as we explored the vast opportunities
here, many of which were made possible by those before us. Now
we must, scared as we all are, cook and clean for ourselves. But,
while we are polishing these skills, let us not forget to continue
what we started during our time here
Four years ago, colleges
across the globe promised us many gifts. This school gave
them to us, through our wonderfully unique educations, but with
the understanding that we would pass these gifts on to future
generations. Though initially unprepared for such duty, it has
become clear through our actions, that we were destined to be
agents of inspirationthat is, destined to be Mount Holyoke
Be confident that
we have created and earned the tools necessary to survive "out
there." We will take our ideas, enthusiasm, and pride to
schools, corporate America, and into our homes. We must persevere
in fights for justice and we must educate to eradicate ignorance.
Such is our vocation. Together, Mount Holyoke class of 2002, we
will show people exactly what the benefits are of liberal arts
education for women. Have courage, keep faith, and good luck to
all of us.