by Matt Getty, video by Joe O'Neill
The 2017 Commencement exercises officially made 530 students graduates of the college on Sunday, May 21, and urged them to find ways to serve as they carve out their post-Dickinson paths. In addition to the presentation of student and faculty awards as well as the bestowing of three honorary degrees, the ceremony featured advice from Commencement speaker and retired four-star admiral James Stavridis, who discussed why he’s sometimes troubled by the common statement to military members—“Thank you for your service.”
“My problem is that by making that catch phrase, ‘Thank you for your service,’ somehow the province of the military alone, we miss a crucial point,” he explained. “Which is simply that there are so many ways to serve this nation, and indeed to serve the world beyond what our military does.”
Stavridis pointed out how first responders, Peace Corps members, teachers, diplomats, journalists, health-care professionals, entrepreneurs, volunteers, social workers and politicians serve the country. To each, he offered the same refrain, “Today, I say, thank you for your service.”
Then he encouraged the class of 2017 to find ways to do the same. “In the gorgeous trajectories of your lives, find time to serve,” he said. “Because one day I want to be able to say to you—the class of 2017—'thank you for your service.' ”
Timothy Wahls, associate professor of computer science, was posthumously named the 2017 recipient of Dickinson’s Constance and Rose Ganoe Memorial Award for Inspirational Teaching. Wahls passed away in February after a hard-fought battle with pancreatic cancer. His wife, Linda Null, accepted the award on his behalf. Bestowed annually, the honor is determined by a secret-ballot vote conducted by members of the graduating class.
From left, Joana Nunes and Emily Vooris. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.
Additionally, four members of the class of 2017 received special honors:
From left, Nicholas Rejebian and Philip Morabito. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.
In addition to Stavridis, who received a Doctor of Public Service honorary degree, Dickinson awarded two other honorary degrees during the ceremony:
The Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism was presented to Brett Jenks, president and CEO of Rare, which uses its expertise in human-behavior change to create enduring and sustainable climate-smart solutions for both people and nature. After accepting the $100,000 award, Jenks pledged to put it directly to use to establish more tools for helping international communities sustainably manage their natural resources.
Savanna Riley (left) was named the new Young Alumni Trustee by Jennifer Ward Reynolds '77. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.
The ceremonies ended with each graduate making the traditional walk down Old West’s old stone steps to complete the symbolic journey they began four years ago by walking up those steps to sign into the college. Among the graduates:
Photo by Carl Socolow '77.
As they prepared to leave campus to begin their futures, Weissman reminded the graduates that Commencement may mark the end of their time as students, but it also marks the beginning of their time as Dickinson alumni.
“As you leave your college days behind, you’re taking Dickinson and this community with you,” he said. “Each of you has made Dickinson a better place for those who will follow you … and in all you do and all you accomplish in your lives, Dickinson will remain a part of you.”
Published May 21, 2017