A heart-warming epilogue
With ceremonial bagpipes and a weekend of fun, Skidmore welcomed members of the Class of 2020 back to campus for an emotional Commencement Celebration long delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to a standing-room only audience in Zankel Music Center, Jinan Al-Busaidi ’20, president of the class, expressed excitement about the opportunity to reconnect with more than 300 classmates along with faculty and staff; share the joyous occasion with family and friends; and finally “celebrate our class the way we deserve to be celebrated.”
Like students across the world, most Skidmore students abruptly left campus in spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of Skidmore’s Class of 2020 went on to receive their diplomas in the mail and participated in a virtual Commencement ceremony.
The Commencement Celebration on Saturday, June 4, featured many aspects of Skidmore tradition: live bagpipes, the opportunity to march across the stage in front of friends and family, speeches, the granting of honorary degrees, and the singing of Skidmore’s Alma Mater. Many members of the class also opted to wear regalia.
But in many ways, the ceremony was also more lighthearted, as class members laughed and relished the opportunity to be back together again: One class member of the class jovially handed President Marc Conner a rubber duck; another scooted across the stage in roller skates. “More than anything else, I want you to have fun,” Conner said.
In speeches, Al-Busaidi, Conner, and Robert F. Resnick ’88, president of the Skidmore College Alumni Association, all acknowledged the unique challenges that members of the class had faced and their remarkable resilience. Dr. Patricia Hellman Gibbs and Dr. Richard Gibbs, founders of the San Francisco Free Clinic, which provides free, accessible medical treatment to over 1,600 clients each year, also shared words of wisdom after receiving honorary degrees from Skidmore.
The extended weekend of celebrations featured many of the components of Senior Week, which traditionally precedes Commencement. Members of the class stayed in Skidmore campus housing. They joined a Brick Celebration and perused the brick pathway in the heart of campus that bears their names and those of their classmates. There was an ice cream social with an inflatable obstacle course and life-sized foosball game; food trucks; a barbecue; a dinner cruise on Lake George; fireworks; and dancing.
Commencement Celebration Ceremony
Al-Busaidi opened her remarks by acknowledging classmates and loved ones who could not attend the celebration, which was also livestreamed, and received thundering applause from the audience. She also described the dashed hopes that many experienced in the spring of 2020. During that trying period, Al-Busaidi said she often turned to the words of the great 10th-century Arab poet Abu al-Tayyib Ahmad ibn Husayn al-Mutanabbi: “One does not attain all his heart’s desires, for the winds do not blow as the vessels wish.”
Jinan Al-Busaidi ’20
“As a class who weathered and persevered through the many obstacles thrown in our
way, I am so glad to see that the wind has swept us back home to Skidmore. I hope
that you’ve all enjoyed our celebration weekend, and I can’t wait to see where our
new journey takes us.”
President Conner, who assumed office just weeks after the Class of 2020 graduated, spoke of their shared experience of navigating an extremely complex COVID-19 situation that no one could have anticipated. He praised members of the class for their “endurance, grit, creativity, compassion, and empathy.”
Marc C. Conner
“This weekend, you return to Skidmore for many reasons: To heal, to reunite, to recover, to see old friends, and to simply be on this campus, your campus, once again … I invite all of you to fall in love with your Skidmore all over again ... Skidmore is part of your identity, of who you are. We will always care about you.
We look forward to hearing of your achievements and your triumphs, so that we can
celebrate them with you. Here you have studied, laughed, and lived; and to here you have returned.”
President Emeritus Philip A. Glotzbach, who led the College throughout the Class of 2020’s time at Skidmore, also recorded a special video message for the graduates. In the video, he compared a Skidmore education to a “wristband” described in a song by Paul Simon of the same name, and urged the class to use their education to forge a better world.
Philip A. Glotzbach
“As you make your way in the professional world, I ask you to remember our fellow citizens
and others across our small planet … More expansively and more generously, I deeply hope that your Skidmore education has
reinforced for you the idea that we all should want to live in a world where 'wristbands'
are far more widely available than they are today. Please do all you can to help bring
about that better world!”
After receiving their honorary degrees, Dr. Tricia Hellman Gibbs and Dr. Richard Gibbs, who are professors of clinical medicine at the University of California San Francisco in addition to their work through the San Francisco Free Clinic, individually addressed the class. Prior to his career in medicine, Richard Gibbs spent 12 years as a professional ballet dancer and is currently the supervising physician for the San Francisco Ballet, as well as founding chair of Dance/USA’s National Taskforce on Dancer Health. He encouraged the graduates to use their imagination and take chances in their pursuits.
“Think as broad and as far as your imagination can carry you. And don’t just use your
head, think with your heart as well … In school and college, you’ve learned skills
that you’ll use in whatever endeavor you go to ... But there is one skill that you
are born with that’s the most special of all, and that is the ability to dream. It’s
the one skill that you must never lose, it’s the one skill that you must never let
get rusty. And it’s the one skill that will allow you to formulate what you believe
and that will carry you forward.”
Patricia Hellman Gibbs is a former member of the U.S. National Ski Team and founded the Sugar Bowl Academy for young Olympic hopefuls, is a fiction author and filmmaker, and is president of the Hellman Foundation. She said she was “in awe” of what the Class of 2020 had gone through and their return to campus for their Commencement Celebration. She spoke about her work with the free clinic, her family’s legacy of giving, and how giving also brought them joy.
Tricia Hellman Gibbs
“Don’t get me wrong, I'm not saying that all things should be free. Selling things
and charging for labor is essential, and not everything could or should be free. But
if you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to do it (engage in giving), it’s a
tremendous honor and reward, and I think there's an example in a free transaction
of how humans can help each other in a way that is pure and uncorrupted. Some things
in the world should not be exploited for profit; one of these things is healthcare.”
In his speech, Robert F. Resnick ’88, president of the Skidmore College Alumni Association, spoke about the challenges that the Class of 2020 had endured. He recounted how he once attended a baseball game that was interrupted by a lengthy rain delay and ended in the early morning hours. Following 14 innings of play, his beloved Mets prevailed. He told the class that its own story was similar: They had experienced a rain delay and came out on top.
Robert F. Resnick ’88
“Life is full of choices, challenges; it will never be easy, or at least the important
things won't. You need to reach out and ask for help. By now you have this room full
of your classmates that you can ask for help. You have the amazing faculty that helped
you get where you are today whom you can ask for help, you have the administration, you have this college that
will always be your home that you can ask for help. And as members of the Alumni Association,
you have 38,000 people that you can ask for help. That is who we are. We are Skidmore.”