Dr. Philip A. Glotzbach
President of Skidmore College
Philip A. Glotzbach became the seventh President of Skidmore College on July 1, 2003. A philosopher, academic administrator, and spokesperson on issues of higher education, he joined the College following eleven years at the University of Redlands in southern California
Today, I know I join others in our Skidmore community who are still reeling from the incomprehensible tragedy in Orlando, Florida over the weekend. We have lowered our flags in honor of the lives lost and in solidarity with the families and loved ones who are mourning. We have also placed a rainbow LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/and or questioning) flag prominently outside Case Center in Porter Plaza to acknowledge the loss, especially within our gay community.
For those on campus who would like to gather for a time of remembrance, we will hold a brief memorial at 4:15 p.m. today at Porter Plaza. For anyone who needs support, Counseling Services may be reached at 518-580-5555. As a reminder, all employees may utilize the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which may be reached at 518-793-9768.
Let me share two reflections:
From Skidmore's Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Parker Diggory: "In addition to the staggering loss of life, I keep coming back to the knowledge that a kind of sanctuary was violated in this attack and that the LGBTQ community, particularly those of color, are experiencing loss and fear on a devastating scale. In the swirl of narratives and grief that will continue to emerge from this event, I hope each of us takes the time we need to reach out to our people in whatever way is right for us, and to acknowledge the grief and anger as well as the need for community."
From former Skidmore American Studies Fellow Richard Kim writing in The Nation: "Gay bars are therapy for people who can't afford therapy; temples for people who lost their religion, or whose religion lost them; vacations for people who can't go on vacation; homes for folk without families; sanctuaries against aggression."
Sadly, it was almost exactly a year ago that I reached out to you about the horrible murders at the A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina. In the meantime, we have seen other such tragedies around the world, and I know that we all mourn for those who have experienced great loss. It brings home to all of us our charge here at Skidmore: to educate future leaders to work for a time when we see a diminishing number of such actions that are driven by hatred and fear to be replaced by actions that are driven by love and hope.
Philip A. Glotzbach
Connection and Continuity
Good morning. On this beautiful spring day, let me add my own heartfelt greetings to parents, family members, Trustees, members of the faculty, and honored guests in attendance at this celebratory event: Skidmore College's 105th Commencement. Above all, to the members of the Skidmore College Class of 2016 – to those receiving Master's degrees, bachelor's of arts and bachelor's of science degrees today, heartfelt congratulations!
You have just heard from Ms. Linda Toohey. Today is a graduation day of sorts, for her as well. Linda has served for fifteen years as a Trustee of Skidmore College and for the last four years as an accomplished and transformative Chair of the Board. Today, Linda is stepping down from that leadership role and retiring from the Board of Trustees. I ask that we give her a sincere round of applause to thank her for her outstanding service to the College.
We invest important life transitions in symbolism: In addition to the American flag, there are 32 other national flags arrayed on either side of the stage, representing the homelands of those graduating seniors who have traveled far to learn with us and who, in turn, have enriched the Skidmore community with their presence and their perspectives.
The bagpipers who led most of you into the Opening Convocation in September of your freshman year reappeared today to herald your final moments as Skidmore students. Then, at the end of this ceremony, they will lead you out into your new lives as Skidmore alumni. Four years ago, at that Opening Convocation, those of you seniors who were new first-year students wore green class t-shirts with '2016' in purple numerals. Those shirts signaled both the bonds you would soon establish with your classmates and your goal of completing a course of studies that would bring you to this day. Now, four years later, your academic robe and accompanying flourishes serve as outward signs of your hard-won accomplishments. I hope that each of you is proud of what your cap, gown, and honor cords say about what you have done during your time at Skidmore. And by the way, your gowns are made of recycled materials, as one more symbol highlighting our commitment to environmental sustainability.
The array of ornate regalia in evidence here today connects each of us to the rich and abiding history of higher learning. This form of dress hearkens back to the medieval university and reflects a continuity of tradition extending across nine centuries. It also reminds us that yours is just one of many generations of young people who have come to the academy seeking preparation for productive and meaningful lives and, I trust, some measure of wisdom. Those of us on stage wear our own academic robes to signify that we too have made similar journeys. This is your moment of transition, triumph, and no doubt, some trepidation, but you can take a measure of encouragement in the fact that we and countless others have traveled this path ahead of you.
Your own personal journeys will be shaped, in part, by larger social forces that act upon all of us. In fact, your generation already has been forging new relations to society and to one another in a time when traditional social structures are themselves in considerable flux. Yours is the most diverse generation in American history, and the range of perspectives represented across your cohort reflects what the Pew Research Center describes as "a myriad of views on many of the important issues of [your] time."1 You have come of age in a world marked by social media, and you are highly connected in the virtual realm. At the same time, your generation is much less attached than previous ones to political structures – e.g., traditional political parties – or organized religion. And yet, the Pew data also show that your generation remains optimistic about the future. I sincerely hope that each of you shares that sense of optimism.
I also hope you will place a value on social connection that is rooted, in part, in your college experience. In this past year, we have shared the profound experience of coming together as a community of respect, trust, and care. This was especially true on the two sad occasions when we gathered to commemorate the loss of Michael Hedges and Will Golden – who tragically were taken from us. As seniors, few of you personally knew these members of the first-year class. Even so, you too gathered with your fellow students and other members of the community to stand in sorrow and solidarity; you too felt a sense of loss born out of your membership in this special institution. And at the same time you felt the support of your fellow students who were united in facing these challenges together.
Now, as you prepare to leave this close-knit campus community and move forward in your own lives, let me leave you with just two more thoughts about the world of work you are about to enter – whether through a job or by pursuing advanced studies in graduate or professional school.
First, even in these challenging economic times, don't settle for work that just enables you to survive but seek out work that speaks to you in a deeply personal way – ideally, something that engages your creative spirit, something you find so fulfilling that you will be amazed that someone is actually paying you to do it. We human beings intrinsically seek to create meaning across all the many dimensions of our lives. My hope is that you find meaning in your work-life and that you are able to regard what you do as important. It doesn't have to be if-I-do-this-right-I'll-win-a-Nobel-Peace-Prize important, but your work should be something about which you honestly can say (to yourself), "What I am doing is valuable. It makes a difference." And the good news is that you get to decide what is important – to determine just what kind of difference you want to make in the world.
Second, in a recent broadcast of the National Public Radio program "Studio 360," host Kurt Anderson interviewed the acclaimed theatre, film and television actor Frank Langella.2 At one point in the interview, Mr. Langella recounted a bit of advice he received as a young actor, just 24 years old, from a director who said to him, "Try to, in your career as an American actor, associate your name with the word 'quality,' and you will survive." I hope that you will approach your own work with a similar determination. And if you combine that determination with your creative spirit, you will do much more than survive – you will thrive, and you will lead. Certainly, if you regard your work as meaningful and important you will want to do it well. And I trust that you've already learned that performing at a high level, no matter what you are doing, is intrinsically satisfying.
There is another more extrinsic aspect of all this to keep in mind as well. Even though you will have left our campus to seek your own path through the professional world, your Skidmore degree connects you to a larger community of perceived value that includes all Skidmore graduates past, present, and future. In short, the Skidmore brand is now inextricably part of the brand called 'you'. Your degree gains this extrinsic value, in part, because of what other Skidmore alumni have done and how well they have done it, for the world now will associate you with them.
Conversely, the important work you do well helps to create value for your fellow alumni. Our new Strategic Plan includes the expectation "that when potential employers or admissions deans of graduate and professional schools see 'Skidmore College' on a resume, they will think, 'This is someone who will elevate our organization.'" If you strive, through your own work, to associate your name with the word 'quality', you will fulfill this expectation. Similarly, as we work together to continue to improve the educational opportunities we offer to successive generations of students at the College – and as Skidmore's reputation continues to improve as a consequence – your degree becomes more valuable as well. In short, we all remain connected through the extended Skidmore community in a web of both intrinsic and extrinsic value.
There is much to celebrate today about what you have done to reach this point in your life, and there is much to anticipate about what you will do tomorrow. The paths you choose will be uniquely yours. And at the same time, you will always be connected, in so many ways, first of all to everyone in the Class of 2016 but also to everyone in all those classes that have come before you, as well as those yet to come.
Be mindful of those connections, embrace them, and nurture them.
Congratulations, and may the force be with you.
Dear Members of the Skidmore Community,
I write to announce Cerri Annette Banks as our new Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs, effective August 1, 2016. Cerri currently serves as Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of the College at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
I am truly thrilled to welcome Cerri Banks to our community. She brings an extraordinary level of experience in the increasingly complex world of student affairs. Cerri is uniquely qualified to lead a division that oversees every facet of our students' lives outside of the classroom. Her background and insights will be invaluable in the President’s Cabinet and across our campus.
Here at Skidmore, Cerri will oversee 134 employees and five offices within Student Affairs, including athletics, campus life, career development, student diversity programs, and student academic services.
She replaces Interim Dean and Vice President Gail Cummings-Danson, who held the role for the past academic year after the departure of former Dean and Vice President W. Rochelle Calhoun for a vice presidency at Princeton University. Gail will return to her previous role as Skidmore's athletics director in the fall. I want to thank Gail for her extraordinary service stepping up to the interim role while also maintaining her duties as A.D. During this past year, she has helped us deal with a number of daunting challenges, and she has done so with intelligence, wisdom, and grace.
Cerri has held the Mount Holyoke position since July 2011. She oversaw a staff of 70 and a $5.4 million annual budget; in addition, she served on the President's Cabinet, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, the Academic Priorities Committee, and numerous other high-level boards.
Previously, Cerri was Dean of William Smith College in Geneva, N.Y., after serving there as a faculty member, interim dean, and director of the President's Commission on Inclusive Excellence.
She received B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees from Syracuse University between 1997 and 2006, where her areas of study included cultural foundations of education. A scholar of multiculturalism and diversity in education, she has written two books and produced scores of articles, book chapters, and presentations on culturally relevant teaching and learning and other subjects.
Active in key higher-education organizations over the course of her career, Banks has won a wide array of honors, awards, and scholarships. A graduate of Monroe Community College before transferring to Syracuse, she was inducted into Monroe’s Hall of Fame.
I want to express my deep gratitude to a very strong search committee that included Mary Lou Bates, Gail Cummings-Danson, Corey Freeman-Gallant, David Howson, Terri Mariani, Tashawn Reagon '16, Natalie Taylor (vice chair), Charles Tetelman '16, and Joshua Woodfork (chair). And many thanks to all the students, faculty, and staff members who interacted with our finalists and offered insightful feedback. I also want to compliment our search partners Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates who ably assisted us and provided us with a remarkable pool of talented candidates.
Cerri is excited to join our community, meet more of our students, and collaborate with partners across the campus. Please join me in welcoming our new colleague.
Philip A. Glotzbach