Speakers Laud the Mount Holyoke Advantage
close friendships students form at women’s colleges give them an enormous advantage in tackling
life’s problems, NPR’s award-winning legal affairs
correspondent Nina Totenberg told the 168th graduating class
of Mount Holyoke College.
“Look to your right and left, and you will see that advantage
seated all around you today,” she said.
Totenberg told 547 graduating seniors gathered at Kendall Field
House that women friends offer each other something very special—an
identity, a connection, sometimes even a salvation. Her friends
illness and subsequent death of her first husband, former Colorado
Democratic Senator Floyd Haskell, and they rejoiced with her
when she fell in love and remarried later on. Totenberg opened
her speech with a humorous poem she wrote about women wanting
it all when they graduate—career, family, money,
purpose. Paraphrasing fictional flapper "Auntie Mame," she
said life is a banquet that “most poor suckers are too
“Just remember,” she cautioned, “you don’t have
to be a glutton either. You can have it all, within reason.”
Y. Calhoun '05,
speaker Claudia Y. Calhoun '05 told her classmates she has
been looking for a way to have her version of it all: to
make an important contribution to the world, while doing something
loves. Calhoun, an American Studies major from Houston, Texas,
and an active member of Mount Holyoke’s Student Coalition
for Action, said she’s watched her classmates struggle
with the same quest. Read
She called their struggle good news for the world, because it means
that students are thinking about how to make it a more equitable
not worried about the world. Not as long as we’re
in it,” she said. Calhoun said that as long as she and
her classmates teach others what they’ve learned at Mount
Holyoke—how to live out
their differences, how to communicate openly, how to have vigorous
but peaceful debate—they will make the world better.
“We will change the world every day that we walk in it
and let people know: this is what I think, this is what I know,
this is what I
have learned.” said Calhoun.
Graduating seniors illustrated this theme as they discussed
their plans for the future. Nicole Brun-Cottan '05, a Frances
scholar from Southampton, Massachusetts, who majored in critical
social thought, said she plans to get a law degree.
“I want to advocate for people who can’t advocate for themselves,” she
Summa cum laude graduate Mary Murphy '05, a medieval studies
major from Fairfield, Iowa, joined the Peace Corps and will
head to Eastern
Europe. Murphy said she chose the Peace Corps because she wanted
to do something concrete to help people.
The College conferred honorary degrees on Beverly Daniel Tatum,
president of Spelman College and former dean of Mount Holyoke;
Barbara Wilson, a 1968 graduate of Mount Holyoke and a program
manager for the Center for Space Microelectronics Technology
at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Krisana Kraisintu
of the German Medical Aid Organization, who successfully fought
access to AIDS drugs in southeast Asia; and Totenberg.
Like Totenberg, Wilson said Mount Holyoke gives its students
an advantage over their peers. While most schools teach their
students to regurgitate facts, she said, Mount Holyoke taught
her to recognize when she did or did not understand something,
skill in the sciences. Mount Holyoke also gave her confidence
in her abilities, she said.
2005 Commencement Index