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Success is explored, and honored, at convocation
Ethical ambition” was advocated at Skidmore’s Spring Convocation in January. Civil-rights acti- vist, lawyer, and scholar Derrick Bell also spoke of discrimination and justice during his “Meditations on Success,” the keynote speech at the all-college gathering that kicks off Skidmore’s spring semester.
|Author and legal scholar Derrick Bell autographs books after sharing his “Meditations on Success.”
Described by Skidmore president Jamienne S. Studley as “a man of remarkable conviction, leadership, and creativity,” Bell is currently visiting professor of law at New York University. With a forty-year career as lawyer, activist, teacher, and author, Bell knows all about hard-fought struggles and hard-won rewards. Beginning in the late 1950s he worked for the U.S. Department of Justice and then for the NAACP, representing black citizens in hundreds of lawsuits that dismantled segregation in Southern schools and public accommodations. In 1969 he joined the faculty at Harvard Law School, becoming its first black professor to win tenure. After a stint as dean of the law school at the University of Oregon, Bell returned to Harvard but was later dismissed after he took a lengthy leave of absence as a protest to support students’ demands for more racial and gender equity on the faculty.
In 1973 Bell published Race, Racism, and American Law, which is in its fourth edition as a standard law school text across the country. He has also written allegorical fiction—And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice (1987) and Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism (1992)—as well as Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent Protester (1994) and Gospel Choirs: Psalms of Survival in an Alien Land Called Home (1996).
Bell told the Skidmore audience that barriers of race, sex, and class still exist in America, but he acknowledged that some are able to overcome them and achieve success. In defining success, he emphasized that financial gain and personal honor are not mutually exclusive. Indeed commitment to an important cause—recognizing evil and working for positive change —is a key to true personal success. Secrets of a successful life, he said, are maintaining integrity, demanding and granting dignity, and forging good relationships.
The convocation was presented in partnership with the student group Ujima, in conjunction with campus celebrations of Black History Month.
Community service awards
Spring Convocation also marks Skidmore Presidents’ Day—a time, said President Studley, “when we celebrate Skidmore’s history and traditions, reflect on our purpose, and honor people who make special contributions to our community.” Individual Presidents’ Day Awards went to
- Nancy Bruno, assistant director of human resources
- Rachel Burrows ’01, leader in the Periclean honor society, Student Alumni Society, and diversity effort
- Ruth Copans, humanities and special-collections librarian
- Stephen Dinyer, specialist in curriculum support and media services
- Robert Ingenito ’01, Filene Scholar and leader in Skidmore’s grief support group
- Kerim Odekon ’01, Environmental Action Club and Skidmore Greens leader, and Saratoga community activist
- Stephen Otrembiak, audiovisual technician in curriculum support and media services
New this year were Team Service Awards, for Skidmore groups demonstrating a strong spirit of collegiality, cooperation, and commitment to positive change. Awardees were:
- Committee on Educational Policies and Planning, which recently led the college in revising the core curriculum
- Office of Campus Safety, whose new leadership and policies emphasize education and service