The Class of 2009 Celebrates Commencement
There were just as many umbrellas as sunglasses in the crowd when friends and family gathered to celebrate Colby-Sawyer's 2009 Commencement on Saturday, May 9, on the college's front lawn.
Standing in the light rain, one graduate's brother remarked that it seems like we were just checking out this place. While little boys in dress clothes played catch in front of Colgate Hall, the 179 members of the Class of 2009 gathered in the Ware Campus Center. There, the Richard brothers, Nicholas and Noah, helped each other with their caps and gowns; two seniors picked out Heart and Soul on the grand piano in the corner. Sodexo Dining Services Manager Mike Heffernan passed out water, while Student Development Operations Manager Jerry Volpe took the microphone to assure everyone that help was available for any last-minute gown adjustments. More than one senior tried to sort through the tangle of emotions that graduation day brought regarding their family and the future.
I'm a little nervous, actually, Kimberly Walleston said with a smile. I'm going to miss Colby-Sawyer, but I'll be back to visit.
Meanwhile, in Colgate Hall, senior staff and the trustees mingled in the President's Office while faculty assembled in their academic regalia, as excited and boisterous as their former students.
At 10:30 a.m. the rain stopped and Main Street was closed to traffic. Wearing flip flops, heels, sneakers or boots, and sporting everything from pajama bottoms to flowers behind their ears, the Class of 2009 processed in to the New England Brass Quintet's rendition of Paul Dukas's "Fanfare."
It's happening, one graduate whispered to a friend, sounding surprised.
Yeah, this is really happening, the other replied, looking around at the bank of video cameras and smiling parents.
Marshal for the College Marc Clement, retiring professor of social sciences and education, called the gathering to order one last time before graduates Kristina Casper, Abigale Way and Jillian Whitney sang the National Anthem.
President Tom Galligan urged the graduates to take a deep breath and reflect on their time at Colby-Sawyer before requesting a moment of silence in memory of Corey Worsham, a member of the class who passed away in 2006.
While today is a day of celebration, it is also a day to remember the good times, the not-so-good times, and all the friends you made during your time at Colby-Sawyer, said President Galligan. One of those friends was your classmate, Corey Worsham. For Corey, there is a chair that stands empty today. That is what his classmates wanted, for Corey to be with them in spirit. Corey's family has also joined us today to congratulate you and share in your joy. They are part of our Colby-Sawyer family.
President Galligan asked the class to be present each day and to consider the moments that will matter most in life.
It is, after all, those little moments that add up to a wonderful life, while the big moments, like walking across the stage today, can get lost or confused over time. So, cherish the moments whether it was a moment in class when that intellectual light bulb went on or the moment you fell in or out of love, or the moment you won a championship, or the moment someone bought a piece of artwork from you or the moment you finished your Capstone project or the moment you realized the dining hall was serving chicken nuggets or the moment you won at Wacky Bingo. Whatever that moment was, grab it and hold onto it.
As you graduate and depart from your-home-away-from home in New London, you will carry many memories of Colby-Sawyer with you. These memories of defining moments and of people you have come to know and love here have shaped your college experience, and many of them will be with you all your life. As you prepare for your walk across the stage today to retrieve your diploma and for the many big changes to come in your lives, remember to cherish the moments both the big and the small because it is all these moments and the people in your lives that will shape and guide and bring joy and meaning to your lives.
Recognition for Alumni, Faculty, Community Members
In the first of many awards, alumna Hannah Haydi Caldwell Sowerwine '60 received the Distinguished Alumni Award. For more than a decade, Mrs. Sowerwine, who resides in California and Nepal, has worked toward improving the quality of life for rural people in Nepal. She and her husband, O. David Sowerwine, founded EcoSystems, a company that provides safe, inexpensive and environmentally sound transport and energy systems in Nepal.
Mr. Richard N. Dick and Mrs. Avone P. Thielen, residents of Sunapee, N.H., and Siesta Key in Sarasota, Fla., received the college's highest award, the Susan Colgate Cleveland Medal, for their extraordinary service, leadership and philanthropy at Colby-Sawyer College. The Thielens are passionate in their support for education. Their many personal gifts and gifts from their family foundation have benefitted many of the college's students.
Chair of the Board of Trustees Anne Winton Black, '73, '75 presented the Town and Gown Awards, which recognizes service to the *college and local communities. Daniel C. Snyder received the Town Award as recognition of his generosity to Colby-Sawyer and its students. Mr. Snyder, who views education as a catalyst that empowers individuals and communities, has brought computer technology to the Windy Hill School at the college and created rare educational opportunities for Colby-Sawyer students.
Colby-Sawyer's Barry Caravan, a staff member in the Facilities Department, received the Gown Award for his service to the New England Handicapped Sports Association (NEHSA) program at Mt. Sunapee Resort. He also works with Sodexo Dining Services and Colby-Sawyer to organize a dinner each year for veterans from around the country who participate in NEHSA's Winter Sports Clinic for Disabled Veterans.
Christopher Kubik, assistant professor and chair of Business Administration, received the college's Nancy Beyer Opler Award for Excellence in Advising from Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculty Deborah Taylor. Professor Kubik joined the faculty in 2006 and teaches courses in finance, managerial accounting, strategic management and introduction to organizations. His professional interests include finance, behavioral finance and event study methodology.
President Galligan recognized Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Laura Alexander with the Jack Jensen Award for Excellence in Teaching, the college's highest teaching award. It recognizes the fundamental importance of the quality of teaching and celebrates those who dedicate themselves to the teaching profession. Professor Alexander joined the faculty in 2001 and teaches courses such as Environmental Issues, Exploring Nature, Desert Communities, and White Mountain History. Her areas of expertise include sense of place, native flora, New Hampshire's White Mountains and North Country, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
The Jack Jensen Award winner traditionally offers the Commencement Address, and Professor Alexander delivered hers on the theme of Now What? in the form of one last class at Colby-Sawyer.
Your whole life you have been instructed what to do first by your parents and then by your teachers, from grade school through last week, said Professor Alexander. I know that at times that has felt confining and restrictive, but it has also been comforting. Here is how I know many of you all across campus struggled this year with your Capstone research projects, and the reason this project was so challenging was that this time the decisions were yours your question, your research, your analysis, and your reporting. You thought you might crack under the pressure, but you got through it, and here you are. More than once during this time you asked yourself, and us, 'Now what?'You may not have recognized it at the time, but the practice you put into answering this question will serve you well because from here on you are in the driver's seat.
Framed within the story of her own circuitous route to a career in higher education, Professor Alexander offered this advice for navigating life without a roadmap: 1. Make a decision. 2. Live wholeheartedly and passionately. 3. Enjoy the journey.
I distinctly remember thinking that if I had it to do over again, I might have pursued a career teaching. I may have even said this out loud, because I heard a response 'What do you mean if you had it to do over? You do!'
Make the leap, Professor Alexander advised, and find your calling. True passion is recognizable and contagious, even if it takes a while to discover that passion.
I suspect those of you who have been in my classes would be disappointed if I didn't close with a flora analogy, said Professor Alexander. To recap, in the plant world there are generalists and specialists As you begin your career path you are generalists, prepared to enter the workforce, but without specialized knowledge or experience. You can thrive in any number of jobs that will give you professional experience and it is nearly impossible to choose wrong, so make a decision, jump in with both feet, and as you gain wisdom you will recognize the habitats that you are most comfortable in where you will flourish you will become specialists.
For those of you who have no idea where you are headed, take heart some seeds fall and germinate quickly while others have the ability to lie dormant for years waiting for the right conditions to take root and grow I daresay this was my experience. There is a niche for each of you, and I am confident you will find it, so on your way to finding your place, live whole-heartedly and passionately, enjoying the journey to your ideal habitat.
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 Elizabeth Cressman and Noah Richard, Child Development and Biology majors, respectively.
Cressman was a member of the Student Government Association and the Campus Activities Board, and took each of her commitments seriously. One of her major accomplishments has been to effectively manage an $80,000 student government budget.
Noah Richard was a strong leader in the Biology Majors Club, assisting the students in building a highly enthusiastic and productive club. He has also been an active participant in the Wesson Honors Program and its advisory committee, interacting effectively with both faculty and students and contributing positive suggestions about ways to strengthen the honors program.
Academic Dean Elizabeth Crockford presented the Alpha Chi Award, given to the graduate who best exemplifies truth and character, to Aubrey Kay Evelyn Thomas, a Communication Studies major with a minor in Business Administration. She was a resident assistant, participant in the Wesson Honors Program and Lambda Pi Eta, the honor society of the National Communication Association. She was also a member of the Swimming and Diving Team, the Dance Club and the theatre group, as well as a writer and editor for the student newspaper, the Colby-Sawyer Courier.
Elizabeth Ryan was presented with the Wynne Jesser McGrew Scholar-Athlete Award, and Patrick Benson with the Scholar-Athlete Award. During her time at Colby-Sawyer, Ryan assumed many campus leadership roles, including her service as the varsity equestrian team's representative to the Student Athletic Advisory Council. As a member of the Equestrian Team, Ryan received the 2007 Coach's Award as a reflection of her dedication to the team, her overall excellent sportsmanship, and as recognition of her growth as a horsewoman.
Her coach, Pam Payson, says, It is awe-inspiring to have seen the level of commitment Elizabeth showed as a rider and then to look at her list of other accomplishments and realize that her effort was made across the board academically, artistically and personally. She exemplifies the qualities that make her the perfect person to receive the Wynne Jesser McGrew Scholar-Athlete Award.
Benson carried a double major in biology and exercise science, and he finished his college career with an impressive academic record. He was also a senior co-captain and a four-year starter at left defensive back on the Men's Soccer Team.
He was named the Commonwealth Coast Conference Men's Soccer Scholar-Athlete this year, is a two-time NSCAA/Adidas Senior All-East Scholar, and was named to the ESPN Academic All-District Men's Soccer Second Team. Additionally, he has been on the Athletic Academic Honor Roll since 2005 through his last semester. He is the recipient of the Sophomore Class Award, a Sawyer Fellowship, and he has been a member of Alpha Chi since 2007.
The David H. Winton Baccalaureate Award, which recognizes the graduating student with the highest cumulative grade point average, was awarded to Abigail Cramer. Cramer was a member of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society, the Wesson Honors Program, the Dean's List, and was listed in Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. She received a Sawyer Fellowship and was twice awarded the Class Academic Award, which is given each year for the highest GPA in the recipient's class.
The Colby-Sawyer Award was given to Elizabeth Ryan, an exceptional student, citizen and role model who was a Wesson Honors student and member of Alpha Chi. Ryan's academic success and leadership have had national and international impact. She was recently awarded the Alpha Chi National Edwin W. Gaston Jr. Scholarship, an honor that was bestowed on only two students in the country.
Where's the Fire?
Following the awards presentations, senior commencement speaker Colin Bellavance addressed his class on the theme of Making Connections. Bellavance, a Sport Management major with a minor in Business Administration, was president of the Class of 2009 since his sophomore year and volunteered in the Admissions Office for a year giving campus tours as a Key Association member.
Bellavance was a four-year member of the Men's Soccer Team, competed in track and field for one season and was a member of the Intramural Volleyball League for a semester. He served with the New London Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter, and with uncanny timing, as he started to speak, the sirens and alarms at the fire house down the road began to blare. Pausing for a beat, Bellavance pointed in their general direction and deadpanned, to the crowd's delight, Fire.
Contemplating his Colby-Sawyer experience, Bellavance reflected, It is difficult to know when my time at Colby-Sawyer really started. Was it during my first tour of the college? Was it during my interview? Perhaps when I first met Coach Steese in my senior year of high school? The answer is found in all of these questions. From the first moment I began my college search process, Colby-Sawyer was where I wanted to be, there was really no comparison. Each member of the faculty or staff that I met welcomed me with open arms and smiles. Everything seemed to fall into place.
The four years passed quickly, Bellavance acknowledged, before sharing some of the memorable small moments of the sort that President Galligan had earlier promised would end up being important: Celebrating a Red Sox victory with friends on the Quad, finishing that first 10-page paper, spending some one-on-one time with senior staff.
Bellavance concluded with some thoughts from writer Mary Anne Radmacher, urging everyone present to: Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.
By noon, the conferring of degrees was complete and the Class of 2009 recessed out of the tent to rejoin their families, college graduates ready to take their Colby-Sawyer experience into the world and make more connections.
Read the speeches delivered at Commencement in their entirety here.
-Kate Dunlop Seamans, May 2009