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Summer 2001

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Commencement watchwords: talk, teach, ask, act

     Skidmore’s Class of 2001 enjoyed a peaceful commencement ceremony, despite earlier controversy over the decision to award an honorary doctorate to New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno ’52.

A small banner protests the granting of an honorary degree to state legislator Joe Bruno ’52.

     In his speech to the 507 regular and 45 University Without Walls graduates, plus 4 master’s recipients, Bruno maintained that “continual improvement is the road to excellence” and encouraged them to focus particularly on enhancing their communication skills. Referring to the troubled negotiations and even deadlock that hamper the state budget process, he acknowledged, “It can be a difficult task to talk in a way that your intent is heard.” He predicted, “Verbal skills are going to make all the difference in your life.”

     Also receiving an honorary doctoral degree was the Pulitzer Prize– winning author of Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt. In a droll but serious appeal, McCourt suggested that graduates with no plans to go “dot-comming all over the place” consider becoming teachers. “It’s a very difficult existence,” admitted McCourt, who taught for thirty years in New York City high schools. “The students are sitting there looking at you and waiting for you to make a mistake.” Nevertheless, he said, “the rewards are great. At the end of my career, I was able to look back at all the young people that came through my classroom and how much I learned from them.” He added, “I’m glad I did that. I hope I was useful.”

President Jamienne S. Studley and Joan Layng Dayton ’63, chair of board of trustees, lead the processional.

     Julianne Cartwright Traylor ’68, chair of the board of Amnesty International U.S.A. accepted her honorary degree “on behalf of the many victims of human-rights abuses here in the U.S. and around the world.” A founding member of Human Rights Advocates and an accredited representative to the United Nations, Traylor encouraged the Skidmore graduates to adopt the motto “Think globally and act locally.” She contended, “All of you can act locally by seeing how you can improve the lives of those around you.”

Blowing bubbles keeps the where-do-I-go-from-here anxieties at bay.

     The commencement program also included remarks from President Jamienne S. Studley and trustee chair Joan Layng Dayton ’63; then the alumni association’s president, Beverly Harrison Miller ’67, welcomed the graduates into Skidmore’s alumni community.

     As president of the senior class, Gerald Maraia ’01 described the many changes that occurred in Saratoga Springs and on campus, as well as within the seniors themselves, during their tenure at Skidmore. Noting that most changes were positive ones through which classmates have “grown, accomplished, and prepared to change the world,” he urged them also to “embrace the change that we are now in the midst of.”

Author Frank McCourt, human-rights leader Julianne Cartwright Traylor ’68, and State Senator Joe Bruno ’52, recipients of Skidmore honorary degrees.

     Like McCourt, the senior class’s choice for faculty speaker, Flip Phillips, added humor to the ceremonies. “Ever wonder what this is for?” he asked, referring to the pocket in the back of his Ph.D. robe—and then produced his notes from it.

Julianne Cartwright Traylor ’68 meets with former Skidmore mentors, including Professor Emeritus Henry Galant and Eleanore Galant, and other faculty at a post-commencement lunch.

     An assistant professor of psychology, Phillips delightedly recounted a conversation with a senior who had ruefully admitted to having more questions as graduation approached than upon entering Skidmore as a freshman. Although the student spoke “as if that was a bad thing,” Phillips said, “I couldn’t have been more happy. Despite what you might have wished for during your experience here, you really don’t get any answers. The beautiful thing about this,” he assured the graduates, “is that the more questions you have, the more you will learn…. Always keep up with the questions!”

Kathy Westbrook is a freelance writer and editor in Ballston Spa, N.Y.

Destinations

Among the next steps for Skidmore’s graduating seniors:

  • Teaching English in China (4)
  • Teaching English in Japan
  • Volunteering at a health clinic in Peru
  • Full fellowships for Ph.D. programs in chemistry (2)
  • Grad school (physical therapy, music technology, social work) at NYU (4)
  • Grad school (biomedical psychology, advertising) at Boston University (2)
  • Grad school (at Cornell and Rutgers) in urban planning (2)
  • Legislative assistant at the Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C.
  • Co-anchor on WWTI-TV 50 News in Watertown, N.Y.
  • Trust accountant for Fidelity Investments in Boston
  • Mergers and acquisitions analyst for Burlington Associates in Los Angeles
  • Research assistant for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

 


© 2001 Skidmore College