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Making Their Mark

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Currents: commencement 2008

The Class of 2008 Celebrates Commencement

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any
direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll
decide where to go…
Oh, the places you'll go!"
-Dr. Seuss

It was supposed to rain, but instead, Colby-Sawyer College held its 2008 Commencement on Saturday, May 10, on the front lawn under sunny skies. A slight breeze kept the graduates and their families comfortable in the enormous tent that almost entirely filled the space between Main Street and Colgate Hall.

Earlier that morning, while their families lined up to take their seats, the 196 graduating members of the Class of 2008 huddled in the Ware Campus Center, arranging their caps and gowns and sorting themselves out alphabetically, by major. A similar scene was taking place in Colgate Hall, as faculty members adjusted each others' academic regalia and readied themselves to lead their students to their seats to the music of the New England Brass Quintet playing Paul Dukas' Fanfare.

At 11 a.m. Main Street was officially closed to traffic and the Commencement ceremony began in the hushed town. Marshal for the College Marc Clement, professor of social sciences and education, called the gathering to order before graduating seniors Sarah Hayes, Jennifer Kiely and Krystle Martin beautifully sang the national anthem.

President Galligan took the lectern to congratulate the graduates and their families, saying, “Congratulations to you for all you have achieved, and congratulations to your families, friends and other loved ones who have supported you, cheered you, cajoled you, pushed you, and loved you. I daresay that without them you might not be sitting here about to receive your diploma from Colby-Sawyer College. This is, in many ways, as big a day for them as it is for you.”

Finishing his second year at Colby-Sawyer, President Galligan reminded the class of the challenge that had been presented to them by his predecessor, Anne Ponder, who had charged the students at Convocation in their first year to “Leave Your Mark.”

Reminiscing over the positive and impressive marks they had made on Colby-Sawyer and each other over the last four years, President Galligan encouraged the graduates to continue making their marks on the world beyond college, but with care and examination of their actions.

“Go and leave a mark, but try not to leave too big a bruise. Make an impact, but try not to hurt people or things along the way. You can make a difference, and I know you will, but in doing so try not roll over people. Try not to hurt them physically or emotionally. In making a difference, please do it the right way,” he requested, before explaining with a poignant childhood memory about his father.

At the end of what the president called a successful, happy and engaging life, his father was worried about a small moment 30 years before in which unwritten rules had been stretched to save two dollars. The president urged the graduates to live so that while reflecting on their lives, there were minimal bruises to recall.

Recognition for Alumni, Faculty, Community Members

In the first of many awards, alumna JoAnn Franke Overfield received the Distinguished Alumni Award. Mrs. Overfield received her A.S. and B.S. degrees from Colby-Sawyer College in 1968 and 1969. She has been a leader in the art industry for nearly 25 years as a partner and owner of a prominent Seattle gallery. Mrs. Overfield has also served as a board member of the Seattle Children's Home and as a member of the Colby-Sawyer Board of Trustees and Alumni Association Board of Directors.

A standing ovation swept through the tent when Barbara Johnson Stearns, who graduated from Colby Academy in 1930 and received her A.A. in liberal arts from Colby School for Girls in 1932, received the college's highest award, the Susan Colgate Cleveland Medal for Distinguished Service. Mrs. Stearns, a New London, N.H., resident, has demonstrated exemplary leadership, generosity and dedication to the college and New London area throughout her life.

Chair of the Board of Trustees Anne Winton Black, '73, '75 presented the Town and Gown Awards, which recognize successful collaboration between the college and local communities. New London Hospital CEO and President Bruce King accepted the Town Award on behalf of the hospital, which was chosen in recognition of its ongoing commitment to educational and service-oriented partnerships with the college community.

Colby-Sawyer's Academic Dean Elizabeth Crockford received the Gown Award for her service to many organizations in the New London area community, including the Kearsarge/Sunapee Area Habitat for Humanity and Lake Sunapee Region Visiting Nurse Association. Dean Crockford joined Colby-Sawyer College as an adjunct faculty member in 1995 and became a full-time member of the faculty in 1997. She served as chair of the Business Administration Department from 2005 to 2007, when she became the college's academic dean. She was honored by the college in 2001 with the Nancy Beyer Opler Award for Excellence in Academic Advising and in 2002 with the Jack Jensen Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Jennifer Austin, assistant professor of Exercise and Sport Sciences (ESS), received the college's Nancy Beyer-Opler Award for Excellence in Academic Advising from Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculty Deborah Taylor. Professor Austin joined the college in 2005 and teaches courses in personal health and wellness, athletic training and kinesiology, and advises 20 students in the ESS major. She also serves as director for the Athletic Training Education Program.

President Galligan recognized Nicholas A. “Nick” Baer, assistant professor of Natural Sciences, with the Jack Jensen Award for Teaching Excellence. The Jack Jensen Award, the college's highest recognition for faculty, acknowledges the central importance of teaching, and each year celebrates a faculty member who has made a distinct, positive difference in the academic climate. Professor Baer joined the college in 2004 and is a biologist with expertise in ecology, aquatic ecosystems, aquatic entomology, and environmental science.

The Jack Jensen Award winner traditionally offers the Commencement Address, and Professor Baer delivered his on the theme of “What a Porcupine Calls Home.”

“We can all learn a lot by paying attention to our natural environment, including these spiky little creatures you may not know much about,” Professor Baer suggested, after sharing memories of making homes in Africa with the Peace Corps and in a big city with the help of a friendly dog.

“How many of you have come face to face with a porcupine?” he asked. “Up until a couple of weeks ago my only porcupine sighting was as road kill. It was my goal this winter to find and observe porcupine in their element. Well, after a winter of weekly ventures searching nearby forests, I still had come up empty in locating a porcupine den … It was apparent to me that I had been looking in all the wrong places for these creatures.

Finally locating a porcupine home, Baer was impressed by only how the porcupine keyed into distinct topographic features but also how the small creatures shaped their environment.

“So, what did I learn from porcupine? It is far better to build a network of friends and family to keep you warm and comforted when times get tough. Also, porcupine shape their environment without destroying their habitat, but rather take only what they need ensuring a sustainable future food supply,” Professor Baer said.

“Now it is up to you to decide what you will call home in the next chapter of life. You might be sitting there trying to envision where you will be next. Some of you are heading back to your parents' house, for a short time… until you get on your feet; right, Mom and Dad? Some of you may or may not be on the back of a truck in Africa. Some of you may find yourself in a new city feeling a bit isolated, and I hope I don't find any of you while I am out looking for porcupine under a rock. Perhaps some of these ideas might help in building your sense of home:

  1. Stay flexible. If you have too many expectations, it might get in the way of exciting and new opportunities.
  2. Take time to turn off technology, and turn on your senses to the world around you.
  3. Eat with family and friends. You never know what you can learn over a good meal.
  4. Get involved in your community and meet new people. It might take volunteering, or who knows --getting a furry friend.
  5. Build a network of good friends and support. Life is a lot better shared with others.
  6. Get outside, find porcupines and learn from them.

Just two years after sitting with the graduates, Tarren Bailey '06 watched Commencement from the platform, surrounded by her former professors who are now her colleagues. The Graduate Award is presented to the member of a preceding class whose character and influence most constructively affected the members of this year's senior class. Bailey, assistant director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving at Colby-Sawyer, often works with students on community service projects and was this year's recipient of the Graduate Award.

Honoring our Students

Senior Achievement Awards, given to two seniors who have distinguished themselves by displaying leadership qualities in their active involvement in the co-curricular life of the college, were presented to John Bryan and Ashlee Willis, both Exercise and Sport Sciences majors and members of the Community Service Club.

Bryan has received the Barbara J. Stearns Award, a Distinguished Service Award, and the Ann Gulick Award. He is a former president of the Community Service Club and was active in the Exercise and Sport Sciences Club. In his position as a resident assistant, John was highly respected and reliable. One of his nominators said, “John is a hard worker, humble, honest and grateful for all he has. He is an active leader and has made a remarkable contribution to our campus as a resident assistant and in the Community Service Club. He is admired as a popular and thoughtful student leader who does all he can to help others before he does anything for himself.”

Willis was a campus leader and influential role model as a resident assistant, an active member of the Community Service Club, and an inspirational captain of the tennis team. One nominator said of Ashlee, “She strives and succeeds in giving back in many ways to the campus community, as well as to the greater outside community. She is a dedicated, responsible and outstanding student and is definitely one of those special people who does everything with the best and most respectable of intentions.

“She has taken a step beyond that of the typical student leader and is determined to make a difference.” Another nominator said: “Ashlee is a highly engaged student who works hard and with quiet efficiency at all she does. She represents the very best of Colby-Sawyer College.”

Academic Dean Crockford presented the Alpha Chi Award, given to the graduate who best exemplifies truth and character, to Sarah Heaney, a Studio Arts major. One nominator said of her, “Sarah is a genuine person who is always helpful to others. Her personality, while quiet, impacts any classroom because of her willingness to share her knowledge and expertise with others in unassuming ways which are recognized and valued by all.”

Lisa Giordano and Justin Tardif were presented with the Wynne Jesser McGrew Scholar-Athlete Award. Giordano was a captain on the lacrosse team and scored 67 goals during her four-year career. She has been accepted to graduate programs where she will continue working toward her goal of obtaining a Ph.D. in psychology.

Tardif was a member of the Dean's List, the Athletic Academic Honor Roll, and captain of the Tennis Team that twice won The Commonwealth Coast Conference (TCCC) team sportsmanship award. He was All-Conference in singles and doubles and was chosen the TCCC Senior Scholar-Athlete for 2008.

The Colby-Sawyer Award was given to Student Government President Zachary Irish. Irish was a teaching assistant; a Community Council member; a resident assistant; president of the History, Society and Culture Club; and a progressive leader of the Student Government Association. A staff member in Student Development remarked that, "More than any student I've known, Zack exemplifies the Colby-Sawyer Award. He has served the college in so many capacities, and was never satisfied to do merely the requirements of his various offices - he wanted to make the organizations and the college better.

“He saw that class boards were struggling for a purpose and with building class unity, so he proposed SGA constitutional amendments to help support them with structure and membership. He saw a gap in programming that the HSC major's club could fill, so he proposed a film series. Some students without cars wanted to run errands off campus during the holiday season, so he arranged for van trips to Concord. All in all, Zack is not content to be the leader of SGA. He encourages students to walk beside him, and in doing so he brings out the leadership qualities in them as well."

The David H. Winton Baccalaureate Award, which recognizes the graduating student with the highest cumulative grade point average, was presented to Psychology major Evelina Simanonyte of Lithuania. Simanonyte graduated summa cum laude and is a member of the Alpha Chi National College Honor Society as well as Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology. She also received a Wesson Honors Program Scholars Certificate.

Student Speakers Address their Classmates Once More

Following the awards presentations, senior commencement speakers Aleshia Carlsen and Adrian Azodi addressed their class on the theme of Leave Your Mark.

Carlsen, a Biology major with a minor in Psychology, served as a resident assistant for several years and was involved in the Community Service Club, was a member of the Tennis Team, the Biology Majors Club, and Key Association. A recipient of the Barbara J. Stearns Award, she has also appeared on the Athletic Academic Honor Roll and participated in the Emerging and Exploring Leaders Programs.

“For so many years, we find ourselves with instructions to life,” she said. We go to high school, we take the SAT's and we go to college - those were our instructions. Right? Once you enter college, the instructions start to disappear. You have to pick your classes, pick your major, decide if you want to join a team, decide if you want to join a club, decide where you want to live, and essentially decide who it is that you want to be. Oh, and also decide what you want to do for the rest of your life.

“I now encourage each and every one of you in attendance … to take this time and think of a way you can make a mark on someone or something. For the graduates of the Class of 2008, we are moving on to the next chapter of life, and whether that is graduate school, your dream career, or the opportunity to become a world traveler, it is our time to make a difference in the world … be open and ready for someone to make their mark on you, and you to make your mark on them.”

Adrian Azodi, a Business Administration major with a minor in Psychology, was a member of the Psi Chi Honor Society in Psychology and the Sigma Beta International Honor Society in Business Management and Administration. He served as a senator in the Student Government Association for two years, and participated in the Wesson Honors Program, the Key Association, the Students in Free Enterprise club, and the Emerging Leaders Program.

“Today, we are not only acknowledged for our hard work, perseverance and ability, we are entrusted with our own mission,” Azodi said. “One that is the centerpiece to everything we will ever do. A mission that, like Colby-Sawyer's, will seek to bring forth the potential of our world to become what we have always dreamed it to be. This mission, this vital question is simple and clear: 'How will what I am doing benefit the world around me?'

“How will what we do affect where we live? How will our actions carry across not only to other nations and peoples but into the future as well? How will we leave our mark? The world is too big for one of us to change it alone. But this is where each of us will play our part. Because our communities are not too big to change by ourselves. Because our neighborhoods are not too big to change by ourselves.

“Because our families are not too big to change by ourselves … Often the smallest action creates the most profound change. If each of us focuses their efforts on the community around them, on their families, their towns, their neighborhoods, then soon the world as a whole will start to look much different ...

What we do as individuals from today forward will be known collectively, as history, and as our future becomes our world's past, we will remember that each day we lived, shaped a world that yesterday, we had only dreamed of.”

With awards presented and advice shared, it was time to confer degrees.

And then, diplomas in hand, the Class of 2008 recessed out of the tent into their new lives as alumni, forever part of the Colby-Sawyer community, with places to go and adventures to experience, and the whole wide world waiting for them to Leave Their Mark.

-Kate Dunlop Seamans & Kimberly Swick Slover