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Arts on view
Calls and responses
The day before Commencement, President Jamienne S. Studley took part in a baccalaureate celebration featuring student performances, readings, and commentary. The seniors asked her to reflect on how she and they had changed in four years. Here, slightly abridged, are her remarks:
It is an honor to join you in reflecting on your yearsour yearsat Skidmore as you imagine and embrace the future.
Youre not the only ones whove changed in these years. Skidmore has changed, too. You had three different presidents at Skidmore: David Porter, to whom you said farewell, Phyllis Roth, and me, whom you welcomed so warmly. Skidmore broke ground for the Tang in the spring of your first year, and dedicated it in the fall of your junior year. Now, this weekend many of you are proudly showing your work for the first time in a renowned museum. And in the expansion of Case Center, you embraced Porter Plaza, Burgess Café, and the new Spa and helped launch the Intercultural Center.
Of course, most profound of all, your senior year was indelibly marked by the tragedies of September 11 and their aftermath. The year had dawned bright and promising. But as we were still greeting each other, life was halted by the unthinkable. Who will ever forget being glued to the TV screens in Case, dazed and disbelieving? Who will ever forget the crystalline blue skies and painfully clear air of 9/11?
Whats also memorable is the way you stepped up to your roles as, literally, the seniors, the leaders within the student body. Your class helped stabilize, organize, reassure, and guide the college after September 11. You came through for your classmates and the entire student body as counselors and head residents and spokespeople, as team captains and presidents and poets and friends. Your understanding, patience, sensitivity to each other, and urge to do positive things in the face of horror influenced and inspired us all.
And as you have been called upon, challenged, and changed, so have I.
I knew the role of president would involve complex educational planning issues, and the chance to meet many alumni and parents and prospective students and donors. But I didnt appreciate in advance how many ways I would be challenged to shape the moral discourse of the college. I relish, but am also humbled by, the depth of my responsibility for guiding our search for meaning, for ways to live together that meet our highest aspirations for civility and honor. I did not recognize how profoundly responsible my colleagues and I would feel for your lives in our care, your educations in our trust.
I treasure our work together to clarify our community values regarding honesty, bias, violence, homophobia, and, yes, drinking and smoking. And just like parents until their children are safe in bed, I cringe every time I hear a siren on Broadway or Clinton. Looking out at your upturned faces as we gathered on Case Green on September 11, at that moment I literally felt your need for me to help the college join hands and struggle together for meaning, to assume the quite unfamiliar role of pastor, in a sense, to the congregation that is the college.
May you all find joy, weather sorrow, and face tomorrow with the same creativity and zest and compassion that we have admired in you at Skidmore.
Thank you for allowing me to be part of your ceremony, and part of your lives.