May 16, 2015
Skidmore has sent another 639 creative and critical college graduates out into the world. Reflecting Saturday's sunny rays of promise, 430 fresh grads earned the bachelor of arts, 202 the bachelor of science, and 7 the master of arts in liberal studies. Among the baccalaureate grads were a record 55 international students, representing 33 countries. From the stage of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, President Philip A. Glotzbach welcomed them and their guests to Skidmore's 104th Commencement on Saturday, May 16. Photo gallery. Video highlights.
Festivities the day before included academic and athletic awards ceremonies, plus the Senior Family Project's addition of patio bricks inscribed with seniors' names. Several students also shared then-and-now reflections from interviews as freshmen and as seniors.
At Commencement, the Class of 2015 heard remarks from civil-rights activist Julian Bond and from ocean scientist Sallie (Penny) Chisholm '69, as well as a faculty farewell from Skidmore economics professor Mehmet Odekon and words of wisdom from trustees' chair Linda Toohey, alumni board chair Sibyl Waterman Haley '71, and senior-class president Soraya Attia '15. Speech highlights.
Toohey extended the trustees' congratulations for "your joy of learning, your intelligence, your zest for life" and emphasized the senior's strong preparation "to take on the challenges that are presented to you the moment you leave the campus, for the rest of your life."
President Glotzbach welcomed the seniors with remarks on community and friendship. He reminded them that he had asked them as freshmen to find a way to leave the Skidmore community better than they found it, and, acknowledging some challenges that arose this year, he thanked them for helping to improve the college during their time on campus. Adding that college is where many lifelong friendships begin, he said, "The connections joining us one to another in our deepest friendships represent one of the highest expressions of human interaction," and he urged the new grads to strengthen their caring relationships.
President Philip A. Glotzbach
Awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters, activist and author Julian Bond recalled the courage shown by freedom fighters in the civil rights movement and reminded the graduates, "They gave you the freedom to enter the larger world protected from its worst abuses. If you are black or female or gay, their struggles prevent your race or gender or sexual orientation from being the arbitrary handicap today it was then." Now, he continued, "Your job—your responsibility—is to make these protections more secure, to expand them for your generation and those who will soon follow you."
Currently on the faculty of American University, Bond has been a civil-rights activist for more than 50 years, helping to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and leading National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Also an author, TV host, and longtime Georgia state legislator, Bond has won many honors, including the National Freedom Award in 2002 and being named a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress in 2008.
Awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree, Penny Chisholm '69 told a parable of fish that have no understanding of the existence of water, to illustrate that "the most important realities of our world are those that we have trouble seeing." She often asks herself: "What am I not seeing? What is happening now, right now, that I will someday look back on and think, How could I not have seen that?" She added, "I try to pause, breathe, look around, and concentrate. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I can catch a glimmer of 'the water.' And that makes all the difference."
A preeminent oceanographer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chisholm was presented with the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama in 2013, chiefly for her discovery and studies of Prochlorococcus, the world's smallest and most abundant photosynthetic organism. Serving as the base of the ocean food chain, these tiny blue-green algae produce as much as 20 percent of the oxygen replenishing the atmosphere each year. Chisholm's other awards include one for the children's science book Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life.
Sallie W. (Penny) Chisholm '69
Selected by the graduating class as their faculty speaker, Skidmore's Tisch Family Distinguished Professor Mehmet Odekon noted that with globalization, "our society began to accept poverty, accept inequality, accept the commodification of all aspects of life, and accept environmental degradation in order to maximize self-interest." He urged the graduates to "emphasize relentlessly that these problems are related to the excesses of the socio-economic system we live in, and that we share the responsibility to find solutions to them."
Class of 2015 President Soraya Attia said, "Let's embrace our potential as individuals
and help others in ways people didn't think we could. However, it is just as important
for us to stay connected with each other. Remember that although we may not physically
be together on the same campus, if you look around the room at the people graduating
today, they're the ones who will be changing the world with you."
Noam Yossefy '15 and Kojo Amarteyfio '15 announced the senior-class gift and alumni matching funds. This year, they said, "inspired by the Sustainability Office's accomplishments and the fellow seniors working on the Community Garden, the Bikemore and compost programs, and the Skidmore Unplugged competition, the senior gift is committed to supporting future student-led initiatives that improve our campus and leave an impactful legacy."
As president of Skidmore's alumni association, Sibyl Waterman Haley '71 warmly welcomed its newest members. She advised the grads to savor the moment, use and enjoy their Skidmore connections, and help other students access the same opportunities: "Slow down. Come back. Give back. You won’t be sorry."
After the speech-making, the handing out of degrees, and the camera flashes, the brand-new grads marched out of the amphitheater between rows of applauding professors and into the arms of proud family members—including, among several legacy families (alumni parents back on campus to see their children graduate), Ed Wachenheim (son of the late Betty Lewis Wachenheim '31 and father of Kim Wachenheim Wagman '88, cheering for her son Kyle '15, and also Selma Harwood, UWW '80, with her son Richard '82, celebrating his son Jonathan '15. Photo gallery. Video highlights.
The Harwood Family
The Wachenheim Family