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Mount Holyoke Sees Red at 169th Convocation

Devil's horns, fire hats, red balloon boxing gloves, red boas—in fact, anything red—was the order of the day as the class of 2009, joined by the faculty, processed into the Gettell Amphitheater Wednesday morning, September 7, to mark Mount Holyoke's 169th academic year.

Wearing their vibrant class color, festive seniors, who often cheered through the annual ceremony of speeches, song, and prayers, were joined by hundreds of members of the Mount Holyoke community—including a handful of parents about to leave their first-year daughters at college—under the open sky of a perfect New England fall day.

But, this ordinarily celebratory occasion was also marked by remembrance of the recent horror that Hurricane Katrina dealt to the Gulf Coast. A number of speakers drew attention to the recent tragedy.

"Our hearts go out to all who have lost so much in these tragedies," President Joanne V. Creighton said in her remarks. "I am so relieved and pleased to report that all of our own students from the Gulf region are accounted for, although sadly some of their families have suffered considerable property loss."

In her remarks, President Creighton (view speech) also spoke of the substantial work that has to be done, both in the United States and the world, in advancing women economically, socially, and politically.

"Consider as well how slowly women’s leadership is infiltrating the higher reaches of power and influence," Creighton said. "Women account for over 45 percent of America’s workforce and for less than 8 percent of its top managers. And those female managers make only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Only two women have ever served on the U.S. Supreme Court and only one remains. Only 14 of 100 senators are women. In fact, it is embarrassing that the U.S. ranks sixtieth out of 180 countries in terms of women’s representation on national legislatures or parliaments.

"Taking the long view of women through the millennia of history, then, you could say that women’s education is still in its infancy and women’s leadership is the world’s most underused natural resource. Not so at Mount Holyoke, though. Here we draw inspiration from Mary Lyon who believed in the transformative power of education and the transformative power of women to engage with men in what she called the 'great work of renovating the world.' "

Delivering the first of the event's three greetings, student government president Katherine Kraschel '06, (view speech) of Clear Lake, Iowa, called on her fellow students to take on the challenge of leadership and promoting positive change. She exhorted her classmates both to appreciate and celebrate the opportunities offered by the College's wide-ranging diversity and to "take personal responsibility to ensure the strength of our community."

"Part of what makes our community, our home, so powerful is our constant critique and analysis, our refusal to become complacent," said Kraschel, her presentation made even more effective by her devil's horns and the red devil tail that flitted outside the academic robes that both seniors and faculty members wear on this occasion. "I am happy to know that we never settle on anything at Mount Holyoke, from planning to plan to plan, to 21-hour dorm access, or looooong faculty debate over distribution requirements; we are perpetually improving an already outstanding institution."

The second of three community members offering greetings, Tom Clark, (view speech) gardens supervisor and cochair of the Staff Council, welcomed the students back to campus, saying, "As I look out at the next four years' worth of Mount Holyoke graduates I see diversity, eagerness, accomplishment, pride, excitement, dedication, and hope for what lies ahead."

Dean of the faculty Donal O'Shea (view speech) used the recent "lack of leadership" among government officials in dealing with Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath to call on students to use their college years to discover both who they want to become and how, ultimately, their life choices can serve humankind.

"Today I ask you to find the things that you love, and that you are good at," O'Shea urged. "Make time and space for them, and be alert for how they can serve others. I think that is how you can best use the gift of time and education, and I think that it is the best response to the sad events of this past week."

The event opened with a prayer by Rabbi Lisa Freitag-Keshet and closed with observations and a blessing by Reverend Sherry Tucker MAT'92. The Glee Club, under the direction of Catharine Melhorn, presented "It Takes A Village" by Joanne Szymko. And, LITS call center specialist Ivy Tillman '83 led the assembly in the "Alma Mater." Convocation was followed by a community picnic on Skinner Green, presented by dining services.

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Copyright © 2006 Mount Holyoke College. This page created and maintained by Office of Communications. Last modified on June 13, 2006.