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Skidmore College


2019 Commencement

On May 18, Skidmore graduated 622 creative seniors at its 108th Commencement Exercises. The Class of 2019 heard remarks from author Alan Lightman and Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Torre, who both received honorary degrees.
Graduates also received a faculty farewell from Kristie A. Ford, professor of sociology and director of Skidmore’s Center for Leadership, Teaching and Learning. Board of Trustees Chair W. Scott McGraw, President Philip A. Glotzbach, Alumni Association President Sibyl Waterman Haley '71 and Senior Class President Nigel Smith '19 also shared words of wisdom with the graduates.
The Class of 2019 spent the day celebrating, recording memories and reflecting on their time at Skidmore as they prepared to leave campus.


The Speakers  

Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman

Awarded an honorary doctorate of letters, Alan Lightman was introduced by Professor of Physics Mary Crone Odekon, who hailed Lightman's career as a writer, educator, physicist and social entrepreneur. Lightman noted that graduates would need to confront pressing issues, including climate change, disparity in wealth, bias and attacks on democracy. In a world that is also increasingly characterized by its "frantic pace and hyperconnectedness," Lightman urged graduates to "acknowledge the importance of your contemplative self, your inner life, the part of you that imagines and dreams and thoughtfully considers your values."

Joe Torre

Joe Torre

Awarded an honorary doctorate of letters, Joe Torre was introduced by Associate Professor Michael Arnush, who donned a Yankees cap and noted Torre’s impressive record as a player and manager, the challenges Torre had overcome both in baseball and in his personal life, and his role in establishing safe havens for abused women and children. In his address to graduates, Torre likened baseball to life and encouraged graduates not to be afraid of failure. “If you go forward with a spirit of hard work, teamwork and the creativity instilled in you at Skidmore, then you will be successful no matter what you choose to pursue in life …. after all, you are Thoroughbreds.”

Kristy Ford

Kristie A. Ford

Professor Kristie A. Ford, selected by the graduating class as its faculty speaker, took the graduates on a journey through the past, present and future. Thinking about the past, she asked, "Upon whose shoulders do you sit or stand?” Addressing the present, Ford spoke of how much, as a professor, she has learned from watching her students. And looking toward the future, she asked the graduates, "Who are you now? Who do you hope to become? And, if you hope to make an impact on the world, what path will you take?" To conclude the journey, Ford shared sincere congratulations and a final declaration: "You do not need me or anyone else on this stage to inspire you. You are our inspiration."

Scott McGraw

W. Scott McGraw

Welcoming the Class of 2019, Board of Trustees Chair W. Scott McGraw stated it was the Board's special responsibility to vote on the conferring of degrees to the graduating class. McGraw highlighted the graduates' "effort, determination and commitment ... to reach this moment of celebration." Drawing on the experiences of his own daughter, Carolyn '12, McGraw challenged the class to consider their Skidmore education prepartion for the life decisions ahead. "You will move forward today from your experiences at Skidmore and be faced with your own set of decisions to ponder every day, for the rest of your lives. Fear not, however, you are about to become Skidmore graduates!"

Philip A. Glotzbach

Philip A. Glotzbach

Skidmore College President Philip A. Glotzbach offered heartfelt congratulations to the Class of 2019. He said, as college graduates, they have received an incredible gift — knowing how to "distinguish good from bad arguments and separate fact-based from non-fact-based knowledge-claims." But, he said, today's news, social media and digital world complicated that effort. Thus, Glotzbach called for each recent graduate to "continue to build upon your Skidmore knowledge ... be intentional about becoming, year over year, a more informed, responsible consumer of information." Because, he emphasized, the future of democracy here and around the world depends on it.

Nigal Smith

Nigel Smith 

Senior Class President Nigel Smith invited members of his class to "brag a little" about their accomplishments — from hip-hop performances to published research and political campaigns. He acknowledged that the future may bring unexpected hurdles and confusing challenges. Someday, "someone may deny your application, reject your offer or shun your idea, but that is when you tap into your Thoroughbred mentality" and use what he called the "Big Three": embrace failure, be a student of the people and bet on yourself. "There is much uncertainty in the world," said Smith, "but we have to be the agents of hope, action and, most importantly, inclusion."

Sibyl Waterman Haley '71

Sibyl Waterman Haley '71

Sibyl Waterman Haley, president of the Alumni Association, was the last to address the graduates. She implored the newest members of the alumni community "to help make it possible for future Skidmore students to have the opportunities you have enjoyed." She also offered a few words of advice: “Slow down. Look back. Come back. Get involved. Give back.”




Commencement was filmed and broadcast live via Skidmore's website to an audience around the world.  If you were unable to attend the event, missed the simulcast or just want to re-live the special day, you may watch the entirety of the event here:


Class of 2019 sets new record 

Edvinas Rupkus and Imara Bina Joroff represented their fellow seniors as co-chairs of the Senior Gift Executive Committee.

Rupkus and Joroff thanked other members of the committee for their hard work and proudly announced that this year’s Senior Gift Campaign set a new participation record: 95% of seniors contributed a total of $5,393. An impressive 41 members of the class made gifts at the Presidents Society leadership level.

This outstanding effort edged out the impressive 94.9% participation record previously set by the Class of 2018, proving that every gift matters.

This accomplishment is a testament to our love for Skidmore and our peers.”
Edvinas Rupkus

Graduates were each given the option of where to designate their gifts. This year, gifts will support scholarships, diversity, sustainability, student health initiatives, the Opportunity Program, Skidmore College Emergency Medical Service and athletics. Rupkus encouraged his fellow grads to continue their generosity in the future. “With each gift, we pay it forward for future students and send a message to Skidmore about what we, both individually and as a class, think is important.”


The Graduates

From 2015 to 2019, members of the Class of 2019 have grown and transformed, overcome challenges and forged lifelong friendships. Read more about this dynamic group, where they're headed and the impact they've had on the Skidmore community.

A graduate shows off a handful of colorful graduation regalia items

The stoles, cords and stories they tell

Skidmore grads donned colorful and symbolic regalia to celebrate their personal journeys and creative accomplishments. Here’s your guide to the story each piece tells.

Read More

Haley English cheers on a fellow athlete in a weightroom

Student-athletes: We're "family for a lifetime."

What does it mean to graduate as a student-athlete? Class of 2019 grads Haley English and Damian Hammond share their thoughts on the true impact sports and Skidmore have had on their lives.

Read More

Cristian Fernandez

Where is the Class of 2019 going next?

From Tiffany & Co. to the Peace Corps and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, members of the Class of 2019 are ready to make their creative marks on the world.

Read more


Ceremony and Celebration  

Attendees were welcomed with a call to celebration by Joyce Casertino, a Skidmore retiree who devoted 35 years of service to the College. Casertino reminded everyone that Skidmore “has always placed special value on the bold, the daring and the future.” She also took a moment to honor our past and shared remarks from a 1923 graduation address by Skidmore’s first president:

To have unfaltering, uncompromising courage of sane, logical convictions is the crowning glory of the life of an educated person."
Charles Henry Keyes
First president of Skidmore College

W. Scott McGraw extended congratulations from the Skidmore Board of Trustees and acknowledged the mix of emotions that major life moments and decisions bring. But he urged graduates to “fear not,” because their Skidmore education has prepared them to succeed. McGraw then issued a call for courage, because “our nation is polarized today and in need of healing, and you, graduates, have a responsibility as citizens of this planet to engage with our world and to understand the unsolved and ongoing issues that face us all.”

President Glotzbach offered his heartfelt congratulations, telling graduates, "I hope that each of you is proud of what your cap, gown, stole or honor cords say about who you are and what you have done during your time at Skidmore."

The president also paused to remember two members of the Class of 2019, Michael Hedges and Will Golden, who tragically lost their lives in their first year at Skidmore and whose families each received a Skidmore degree in memoriam. “We have felt their absence deeply, and we have celebrated their memories,” the president said.  

The College awarded honorary degrees to Alan Lightman and Joe Torre.

Professor Mary Odekon introduced Lightman as a scientist, author, educator and social entrepreneur who has modeled interdisciplinary exploration.

Lightman spoke of the “frantic pace and hyperconnectedness of the modern world” and said the graduates cannot begin to solve the world’s problems until they heal or grow, through contemplation and reflection, their inner life and spirit.  

Joe Torre, introduced by Associate Professor Michael Arnush, compared hardships in life to the game of baseball. “I went over 4,000 games before getting to the World Series,” Torre said. “Baseball is a team sport. You need one another to get through tough times. Life is also a team sport.”

Nigel Smith '19, senior class president, reminisced with his peers about the many accomplishments and challenges they've overcome together. And now, as they graduate, their "near futures may be defined, but [their] destiny is still everchanging ... It's time to live. The marathon continues."

Professor Kristie Ford inspired graduates, their families, their supporting friends, faculty and more to pause, reflect and think about the past, present and future with thoughtful questions like, “Who came before you?” and “Who do you hope to become?”

After the speeches, the conferring of degrees and the camera flashes, Sibyl Waterman Haley ’71, president of Skidmore's Alumni Association, welcomed Skidmore’s newest alumni to the #Skid4life family, saying, "we’re here for you today and for the rest of your lives."

To conclude the ceremony, President Glotzbach delivered one final message to the graduates:

Skidmore is not just a place where you have gone to school, it is now part of your identity — of who you are — and you now are lifelong members of the Skidmore family."

As the bagpipes played, the Class of 2019 marched out of the amphitheater between rows of applauding professors and into the arms of proud family and friends, then on to their creative futures.


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