It was nothing but blue skies and bright sunshine for the class of 2012 during Haverford’s 179th Commencement on Sunday. Student speaker Louise “Lulu” Krause ’12 set a bright, playful tone for this special Mother’s Day ceremony with a memorable send off to classmates played on a pink ukulele. Interim President Joanne V. Creighton offered a fresh take on the four years the graduates spent at Haverford, telling them that “paradox is the essence of your liberal arts education,” which is, at once, she said, “non-utilitarian, and completely useful.”
At the ceremony three distinguished thinkers and activists were presented with honorary degrees. Robert Bollinger ’79 received a Doctor of Sciences for his efforts to enhance the quality of patient care and ensure access to excellent medical care around the globe, as well as his accomplishments as a professor of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. In an unconventional move, Bollinger urged the class of 2012 to take their social networking and connection-making “off the grid,” and asked them to join the Occupy movement by “occupying” their future careers, neighborhoods and homes with integrity, passion, creativity, justice and compassion.
“Occupy them all with your Haverford legacy,” he said.
Oceanographer, explorer and environmental advocate Sylvia Earle, who has spent approximately 42 weeks of her life underwater, was also awarded a Doctor of Sciences. Earle, who is the first woman to serve as chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, stressed the urgency of “making peace with nature.” Said Earle: “The next 10 years, your time, may be the most important in the next 10,000 years because the actions we take now are pivotal in importance… We are looking at tipping points everywhere.”
Despite the hot sun that moved many members of the class of 2012 to strip off their caps and gowns while they listened to the speakers, former Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court chief justice and South African native Margaret Marshall was a model of poise and grace as she was awarded her Doctor of Laws. In his introduction, Garry Jenkins ’92 of the Board of Managers cited Marshall’s refusal to create second class citizens when she wrote her groundbreaking opinion that made Massachusetts the first state to offer legal marriage to same sex couples.
In talking of her work to end apartheid as the leader of the National Union of South African Students, Marshall told the crowd she remembered thinking, “What could I, a young woman, do to end apartheid?” But the racist system was toppled in the end, said Marshall, “by the countless acts, small and insignificant-seeming, of many … who refused to accept the inevitability of apartheid … They changed—we changed— South Africa, one step at a time.”
In her speech, Marshall also applauded Haverford’s commitment to social justice, saying that “Haverford strives to be a college in which integrity, honesty and most important in life, concern for others, are the dominant forces … You graduate from an institution where a faculty dedicated to those ideals has given you powerful tools to test the boundaries of what is thought possible.” To make change in the world and in your own life, stressed Marshall to the class of 2012, “Just do it one step at a time.”
After the more than 300 students in the Class of 2012 received their diplomas, Dean of Student Life Steve Watter had the final word before the graduates tossed their caps into the air. Watter looked at the crowd, sighed, and said, “It sure isn’t easy to let you go.”
—Emma Eisenberg ’09
Photos by Jim Roese
Watch the ceremony in its entirety below: