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Summer 2000

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Pushing boundaries: New graduates urged to reject stereotypes

As the Commencement crowd gathers, Dean of the Faculty Phyllis Roth, the Hon. Guido Calabresi, Dean of Special Programs Donald McCormack, and President Jamienne S. Studley share a laugh together.

     It took guts—and some extra-warm clothing—to graduate on the raw and rainy Saturday of May 20. But 573 Skidmore seniors, along with 44 bachelor’s and seven master’s candidates from the College’s nontraditional programs, bravely participated in Commencement 2000, to the approval of several thousand faculty, friends, and family who filled the Saratoga Performing Arts Center to celebrate, and shiver, along with them. Wearing raincoats, heavy sweaters and socks, and even lap blankets over spring clothes, they applauded President Jamienne S. Studley, who, presiding over her first commencement, warmly saluted the Class of 2000 as “my first seniors, my first graduating class.”

Urging them to balance “the energy and passion of youth” with the “self-awareness and discipline of maturity,” Studley told the graduates, “You won’t always succeed. But it’s like a seesaw: the fun lies in the trying.” And each of the ceremony’s three honorary degree recipients also spoke of balancing: energy and discipline, received beliefs and bold new ideas.

 For instance, in accepting an honorary doctorate of humane letters, the internationally acclaimed choreographer Trisha Brown described how as a young dancer in the 1960s she had been warned to steer clear of weird new choreographers. Instead, Brown joined them; as a founding member of New York City’s radical Judson Dance Theater, she went on to shatter conventions by dancing sometimes in ordinary clothing, often with everyday movements, and even outside on city streets and up the sides of buildings. “I learned that I had a right to my own way to make a dance,” said the choreographer whose honors-filled 30-year career has helped shape postmodern dance. “Learn your craft,” she told the graduates. “Push boundaries. And forget about stereotypes—they deceive you every time. I’m 63, and still dancing.”

The Hon. Guido Calabrese, awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree, also spoke of reversing stereotypes. Calabrese, a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and former dean of Yale Law School, is the author of numerous books and articles on crucial social issues.
The platform party includes (back row) John Brueggemann, Charles Stainback, Richard West, Guido Calabresi, Don McCormack; and (front row) Joan Layng Dayton ’63, Jamie Studley, Beverly Harrison Miller ’67, Melissa Jo Prince ’00, and Trisha Brown.

Calabrese told of a moral dilemma he once faced in meeting the family of a favorite law student, a generous-spirited white South African whose father headed the hard-line Afrikaner church—”a pillar of apartheid, symbol of all that was horrible in that society! How could I meet someone like that?” wondered Calabrese, whose own father had once refused to shake hands with Mussolini. Still, Calabrese courteously greeted the father (“tall, dour, self-righteous”)—and later learned that he went on to speak against apartheid so powerfully that he was assassinated for his beliefs. “How would I have felt if I had treated him badly because I had judged him in advance!” cried Calabrese. “How much more would I have learned if I had been willing to listen and hear.”
UWW grads take a moment to celebrate together.

Receiving an honorary doctor of letters degree was lawyer W. Richard West, whose powerful remarks drew on his Cheyenne and Arapaho heritage. West, director of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of the American Indian, recounted how a Native American population in the millions was reduced to a quarter million after Europeans arrived on the continent. What was lost with them, he said, included cities (larger than many of their European counterparts) leveled “in the name of Manifest Destiny”; a Louisiana “community seven times the size of its contemporary, Stonehenge”; and, near what is now St. Louis, 12-story pyramids so impressive that most Americans of the time attributed their construction not to Indians but to space aliens. Poignantly, West ended with healing words from the valiant Nez Perce Chief Joseph: “Treat all men alike. Give them all an even chance to live and grow.”

Next to speak was senior-class president Melissa Jo Prince. She reminded her classmates that “it was at Skidmore that we learned to accept no boundaries” and then announced a boundary-bending achievement: the Class of 2000 had raised $10,000 for a scholarship to benefit a Skidmore senior next year.

Assistant Professor of Sociology John Brueggemann, chosen by the seniors to deliver the keynote address, took spirited aim at the roots of stereotypical thinking, including the lazy intolerance of complexity that is implied in the ubiquitous student slang “Whatever!” And he urged graduates to (in columnist George Will’s phrase) “commit sociology”: to plumb history as a resource for imagination, to examine each complex social question, and to push beyond stereotypes by “audaciously proposing to take action—to explore, discover, create, assert.”

“Informed and imaginative experts with a moral center are formidable people,” Brueggemann ended ringingly, sending out into the chilly world 624 aspiring “formidable people.” —BAM

Class of 2000 legacies

Graduating seniors who are children or grandchildren of Skidmore alumnae:

Joshua Craig Baumer, son of Sally Francisco Baumer ’71

Crista Mary Cavicchio, daughter of Laura Byers Cavicchio ’72

Jason Mapes Cogan, son of Elizabeth Clark Cogan ’76

Stephen Daniel Dyer, grandson of Patti Sherman Jones ’55

Erin Elizabeth Glover, granddaughter of Marylou Cook Philips ’56

Sarah Reilly Harvey, daughter of Susan Hufnagel ’71; granddaughter of Lucile Reilly Hufnagel ’36

Elizabeth Blankinship Ide, daughter of Martha Blankinship Ide ’73; granddaughter of Joan McPherson Blankinship ’48

James Hakan Linder, son of Laura Lee Linder ’67

Vanessa Amalia Raptopoulos, daughter of Deborah BozBeckian Raptopoulos ’71

Caitlin Wood Robinson, granddaughter of Janet Miller Robinson ’33

Brad Charles Saks, son of Norma Susswein Saks ’68

Matthew Robert Stinson, grandson of Ruth Talmage Stinson ’35*

Clifton Edward Watkins, son of Christina Clarke Watkins ’70

Kelly Lynn Watson, granddaughter of Jeanette Davis Watson ’44

Bryn Alwyn Varley, daughter of Candice Tasman Varley ’70

Editor’s note: These names were compiled from our database. If you know of another 2000 legacy, please share the information with us!

 


© 2000 Skidmore College