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Summer 2003

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Leaving the “safe house”

President Jamienne S. Studley leads the processional.
F
ive hundred fifty strong (including thirty-five University Without Walls grads and six M.A.s), Skidmore’s class of ’03 had already faced dramatic world events: “the dawn of the new millennium, the horror of 9/11, the bursting of the Internet bubble, the crush of corporate scandal, major economic uncertainties, and war,” as trustee chair Suzanne Corbet Thomas ’62 pointed out at Commencement. Fortunately, a liberal-arts education can help “make order and sense out of a confusing and often chaotic world,” she added.
     Celebrating her last commencement at Skidmore, President Jamienne S. Studley told the graduates, “You and I are leaving Skidmore together. Although thirty years separate us, we face the same challenges of preserving our dreams, trusting our passions, and choosing our futures.” (See President’s Message in this issue for more of her speech.)
     Those themes echoed in remarks delivered by three honorary-degree recipients, including Joan Layng Dayton ’63, a civic leader who recently chaired Skidmore’s board and led its successful Journey Campaign in the 1990s. Recalling her student days, Dayton said, “When I was here, this campus was not, and tuition was $2,350. But I hope you have learned, as I did, the value of pushing yourselves, of not underestimating that of which you are capable.” Selected as keynote speaker by the graduates, Professor of Psychology Sheldon Solomon helpfully pushed them along a little: “As you totter on the brink of graduation, one pressing question on your minds should be: How’d you do? How successful have you been at acquiring an education? Ultimately, you need to make this assessment of yourself. I do, however, have a strong opinion: You done good!”
     Playwright and performer Anna Deavere Smith, honored for her solo portrayals of various Americans caught at moments of national crisis, “channeled” her mentor, oral historian Studs Terkel, in a startlingly funny and robust performance. Then she too urged the graduates to push their limits. “We all have ‘safe houses’ of identity—as women, blacks, Democrats, Republicans,” she said. “I suggest that you leave the safe house of identity and go to the crossroads of ambiguity.”
Students from Antigua boast new bachelor’s degrees, thanks to distance learning through UWW.
     The third honoree, Ellen Futter, president of the Museum of Natural History, described a recent exhibition there that displayed “evidence of the earliest tools ever created by humanity and of the earliest instances of cannibalism—humanity at its very best and very worst.” Futter’s words were a powerful reminder that 800,000 years ago, the young went out, educated to the best of their elders’ ability, into a world of creative beauty and horrific destruction, determined to make it their own—and that they still do. —BAM

Alma mater, ave

Like the class of ’03, with whom she shared her four years at Skidmore, President Jamienne S. Studley celebrated a commencement of her own this spring. Studley says, “The images and voices of those I have had the pleasure of working with—students and teachers, graduates and parents—will be my most precious memories of Skidmore.” She also treasures “a kaleidoscope of images, mental snapshots of provocative exhibits at the Tang, overflow crowds cheering Seamus Heaney and Spike Lee, outstanding performances of The Laramie Project and A Chorus Line, the opening of the Intercultural Center, the Higher Education Opportunity Program’s graduation ceremonies, and many others.”
Skidmore president Jamienne S. Studley shows off a souvenir brick from the Case Center renovations she presided over.
     As president, Studley oversaw the opening of the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery and the expanded Case Center; continued success in admissions and student academic quality; and the approval of a new strategic plan. In addition, she was vice-chair of the Annapolis Group of 110 top U.S. liberal-arts colleges, a board member of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and legislative chair for New York State’s Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities.
     Studley recently moved to the San Francisco area, as a scholar-in-residence at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. “This new endeavor,” she says, “will let me weave together the strands of my experience and contribute to work about which I care deeply.” She expects to focus on ways to foster integration between a liberal-arts education and lifelong values, work, and service to society.
     At Skidmore’s May board meeting, the trustees presented Studley and husband Gary J. Smith with an artwork to add to their collection of wood art. Among other thank-you gestures from all corners of campus were inclusion by the graduating seniors as an honorary alumna of the class of ’03 and the establishment of two funds in her name, including a Student Government Association fund to support campus community-development projects. SGA president Andrew Kirshenbaum ’03 says the SGA fund “recognizes Jamie’s commitment to community and tireless support of student activism.”
     Studley says, “It has been a joy and a privilege to contribute to a century of excellence and strength at Skidmore.” —SR


 


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