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Best and brightest
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Best and brightest

Top-ten best things about Skidmore’s 2005 commencement exercises?



1. Skidmore-simpatico traffic patterns on Saturday morning. Every car on Broadway seems to be headed to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

2. Dramatic entrance: The footbridge through treetops and over a stunningly scenic gorge that parents, families, and friends must cross—like fairy-tale characters—to enter the SPAC grounds.

3. Regalia! Medieval garments, funky hats, cords and tassels, modeled by 574 undergrads (including forty-three in the University Without Walls), six master’s degree earners, three honorary degree recipients, and all the faculty and VIPs onstage.

4. Schenectady Pipe Band. Thrilling skirls and thumping drums lead the processional—way cooler than Pomp and Circumstance.

5. Avian accompaniments: Manic chirping of small birds in SPAC’s lofty rafters.

6. Natural selection: Families and friends defying all odds to spot their particular graduate in the 5,000-plus crowd. Sweet. Even the Emir of Qatar (the first head of state to attend a Skidmore commencement) craned eagerly around, looking for his daughter.

7. Ninety minutes of speeches. They may have fallen on ears deafened by excitement, but the best bits always come through, like this insight from honoree and Skidmore parent Carolyn Patty Blum: “It will make all the difference who you choose to walk with in your public, professional life.” She should know. A lawyer, professor, and advocate in refugee and human-rights law, Blum herself has walked with and won justice for victims of political violence in El Salvador and Guatemala.


Phil Ramone—Skidmore parent, twelve-time Grammy winner, and legendary music producer—made the lofty goal of “excellence” crystal-clear to fans of his artists (Sinatra, Coltrane, Madonna, and legions more): “When I’m in the control room, I want everyone in the studio to perform at peak capacity, touching that inner chord that makes them resonate at a higher pitch than they thought possible.”

And political analyst Tim Russert, moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, memorably urged bipartisan selflessness: “No matter what your political philosophy, there is a child who can be pulled up a rung or two… No exercise is better for the human heart than reaching down to lift up another person.”


8. Poignant role reversals. Four years ago, parents got a little teary-eyed dropping off their freshmen on campus. Now it’s their kids’ turn.

9. Poignant role reversals, faculty edition. To start Commencement, Skidmore faculty march into SPAC between two long lines of their applauding students; after the ceremony, the exiting faculty form two lines, the better to applaud and occasionally hug the new graduates emerging between their ranks.





10. The personal high of crossing that huge stage, with a Skidmore degree and the sure and certain knowledge that everyone loves you, baby. As senior-class president Rachel Beard put it, “We have the entire Skidmore community, our families, and friends cheering us on.” From first Skidmore commencement to ninety-fourth, some things never change. —BAM