‘Everything is connected’
See the full gallery of images from Commencement.
As Posse Foundation founder and president Deborah Bial began her keynote address to the 422 members of the Class of 2022 at Connecticut College’s 104th Commencement on Sunday, May 22, she asked for a show of hands of grandparents in attendance.
“There is a profundity to this moment that connects directly to you as grandparents,” she told the audience, before sharing that she had prepared for her address by speaking with a number of grandparents to get a sense of how different life was just two generations ago.
“It was a time of change,” she said, adding that the people she spoke to remembered a raging Vietnam War, the fight for social and racial justice as the Civil Rights Movement took shape and evolved, the Stonewall Uprising, the moon landing, and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Bobby Kennedy.
“These were hugely historic events that shook people to their core. And the people who were your age then? They are your grandparents,” she told the graduating seniors.
Reflecting on all that can happen in a lifetime, Bial told the graduates that their generation will have their own set of challenges and opportunities.
“But think about what your lifetime will bring. …You are going to be surgeons and senators. You’re going to invent new technologies and discover new medications that will change our lives for the better. You’re going to lead movements and volunteer to help those in need. You’re going to write novels. You’re going to perform on Broadway. You’re going to move this world forward,” she said.
“And we’re so excited to see what you will do.”
Prior to the keynote address and in honor of her lifelong commitment to fostering campus environments where students thrive, reach their potential, and contribute to others’ flourishing, Bial was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters honoris causa by President Katherine Bergeron.
During her remarks, Bergeron said she was moved to see the members of the “astonishing Class of 2022” sitting alongside the faculty, staff, alumni, friends and family members who shaped their experiences at Conn and will continue to support them as they take on new challenges.
“It’s moving because we have all lived through so much in the last two years. But if there is one thing that this period of separation and loss has taught us, it is to recognize the incredible honor it is to be together like this, to be part of this unique community,” she said.
Bergeron noted that it was exactly 100 years ago that the students of a fledgling Connecticut College came together to create “a code to live by,” a student-adjudicated Honor Code based on mutual trust and collective respect that has defined Conn’s community ever since.
“One of the most precious things you are taking with you from your time at Conn may well be the shared sense of honor that this code has instilled in you,” Bergeron told the graduates.
“Just as you now see the honors that flowed from accepting membership into this community, I believe that if you continue to live by this code, you will see even greater things in your lives beyond Conn. And not only that: You will also stay connected to each other through the knowledge that each of you, wherever you may be, is making your communities greater, worthier, and more beautiful by contributing to their collective flourishing.”
The graduates were also addressed by senior speaker Emma Gould ’22, an English major and scholar in the Creativity Pathway from Williamsburg, Massachusetts. Noting that college seniors are regularly asked by loved ones about their future plans, Gould said she often thinks about what it will be like to leave Connecticut College.
“Who will I be in the ‘real world?’ What will my friends be doing? When will I return to the places that I leave behind? Then I remember that we’ve done it before. When the pandemic hit in March, 2020, I drove to Conn to collect my belongings and didn’t set foot on campus for a year,” she said.
“This distance offered perspective and the significance of our ties to this community grew. The faithfulness to exploration and connection that this College fosters gave us direction to navigate through this challenge.”
Gould commended her classmates on their extraordinary ability to adapt and said their bonds deepened as they worked to connect remotely, and then again once they returned to campus.
“A certain kinetic motion has enveloped us as we’ve grown. Over these past four years, Connecticut College served as a lens through which our kaleidoscope of experiences can filter through and reflect back to us,” she said.
“After we leave this place, the needles on our compasses will swing back here and we’ll see how far we’ve gone.”
During the ceremony, the Oakes and Louise Ames Prize for most outstanding honors thesis was awarded to Hana Tanabe ’22, an East Asian studies major and theater minor from Deep River, Connecticut. Tanabe’s thesis, “‘Living as Art’: Performance and the Haunting of the Japanese Diaspora,” is an autoethnographic narrative interwoven with scholarly analyses that explores how Japanese and Japanese American artists use embodied practices of memorialization to address the erasures and absences in narratives of racialization, displacement and migration.
The College awarded the Anna Lord Strauss Medal for outstanding public or community service, including service to the College, to Jacob Nozaki ’22, a computer science major, psychology and German studies double minor, and scholar in the College’s Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts from Barrington, Rhode Island. A conscientious and compassionate contributor to shared governance, engaged scholar and collaborative community builder, Nozaki has demonstrated a serious commitment to service across the institution, as well as to his fellow students, the greater New London community, and academic and marginalized communities around the world.
At the conclusion of the ceremony Emily Greenslit ’22, Samuel Kasem-Beg ’22, Lauren Moonan ’22 and Max Toscano ’22 sang the “Alma Mater,” with musical accompaniment by the New London Big Band. They were then joined by Bergeron in singing the Connecticut College “Victory Song.”
Commencement events began earlier in the week with the induction of 41 graduating seniors into Phi Beta Kappa, the national academic honor society; certificate ceremonies for senior scholars in the College’s centers for interdisciplinary scholarship; a Pause reflection event; a Unity House Stoling Ceremony; and special gatherings for student-athletes, international graduates and Posse scholars.
Now graduates, members of the Class of 2022 are heading to locations around the world to pursue a diverse range of opportunities. One has received a Watson Fellowship to travel to Brussels, Belgium; Taipei, Taiwan; New Delhi, India; and Mexico City, Mexico to study the funding, production and distribution of documentaries that inspire environmental justice and social activism. Five graduates have received Fulbright Fellowships to teach English in Germany, Greece, Kazakhstan and Taiwan. Members of the class have been accepted to graduates programs at Harvard University, Duke University, Columbia University, Brown University, Boston College, Boston University, New York University, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Connecticut, while others have accepted positions at companies and organizations including Microsoft, Bank of America, IBM, Morningstar, Red Bull, Citi, The Walt Disney Company, MUFG, JPMorgan Chase, United States Tennis Association, Peace Corps and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Read more about Commencement in The Day.