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Summer 2003

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President’s message
Shared commencement

President Jamienne S. Studley considers colleges like Skidmore special in that “we aspire to incorporate what we study into our everyday life together. We tackle very practical issues: how can we protect free speech while maintaining a close-knit community? how do we best address and reduce plagiarism, sexual assault, and dangerous drinking? how do we apply economic justice in our decisions about employee pay and benefits?” At Commencement this spring, Studley reflected on the four years of Skidmore community life that she shared with the graduating seniors. Here are highlights from her address:
     When you arrived in September 1999, I told you,
     “We are classmates, entering together to discover, and to change, this exceptional place.” We have indeed discovered, and changed, and been classmates in many ways. Our story is filled with wonder and some pain, positive values, some drama, and—in the best Skidmore tradition—a terrific soundtrack.
     We created the Intercultural Center and new programs in neuroscience, environmental science, and Latin American studies. We launched and breathed life into the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery. We renovated Case Center and inaugurated Porter Plaza as the crossroads of our community.
     But our Skidmore years were cruelly bisected by 9/11. We recall the seemingly halcyon days before. Then came the grim reality, and the fears and questions that brought us together, stunned and yearning for understanding, on Case Green under a crystalline blue sky, where we sought comfort in poetry, belief, community, and each other.
     Professor Sheldon Solomon has taught us that humans are genetically predisposed to either confidence or anxiety. So my advice to you graduates, and your families, must be bifurcated.

  • To those who are incurably nervous and overprepared
    (apparently a minority of this audience): Lighten up! Go
    to the beach—you could meet your future boss or the
    love of your life. It’s gonna be OK.

  • To the congenitally, unflappably mellow: This is serious!
    Life is not a dress rehearsal. A little worry is a good thing.
    (P.S. Proofread your résumé. Again.)

     And to all of you: Imagine what you would do if you knew you could not fail. Could not fail. Now go do it.
     You and I are leaving Skidmore together. At this moment in our lives we face the same sense of possibility and anxiety, the same challenges of trusting our passions, understanding our skills, and choosing our futures. We will seek work that has meaning, with colleagues who bring out the best in us.
     We will create schools, communities, and workplaces that welcome and serve people from all backgrounds, where we genuinely learn from each other.
     You have made very clear to us here that you want to live in a country that respects civil liberties, that eradicates homelessness and domestic violence and corporate fraud, a country where everyone has a chance to get a good education and a good job. You want to live in a world that is cooperative, peace-loving, and environmentally responsible. Public policy and global issues are not spectator sports—and Skidmore people are notoriously poor sports spectators anyway. It is your way to be out on the playing field, or the stage, yourselves. Choose the school board or the U.S. Senate, the documentary film or the national advocacy group, but get in the fray. Do your part to make sure that “government of the people, by the people and for the people” does not perish from this earth.
     Whatever goals you set for yourselves, whatever choices you make about life and love and work and service, I wish you the very best. May you find joy, weather sorrow, and face tomorrow with the creativity and zest and honor and compassion that we have known in you at Skidmore.
     I leave you with my closing for every graduating class, true now for Gary and me as well as for you: We will always be a part of Skidmore, and Skidmore will always be a part of us.


P.S. to Scope readers: It has been a pleasure to work with the people of Skidmore: you have my appreciation and respect. I thank you for everything you have done for the college and, very personally, for Gary and me.

 


© 2003 Skidmore College