Connecticut College Magazine · Summer 09

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A Pivotal Moment

A Pivotal Moment
Myles Green ´09 gets a hug after receiving the Oakes and Louise Ames prize. Photo by Jon Crispin.

Graduates shine at Commencement 2009

View a slideshow here

by Amy Martin


Philosopher, feminist and master of intellectual debate Martha Nussbaum told the 440 graduates at Connecticut College´s 91st Commencement that they should be advocates for the liberal arts.

“The type of liberal education you have received is under assault all over the world in our time of economic anxiety,” Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, said. “Spread the word that what happens on this campus is not useless, but crucially relevant to the future of democracy in the nation and the world.”

An activist and critic, Nussbaum has long advocated for the importance of an education in the liberal arts.

“If we do not insist on the crucial importance of the humanities and the arts, they will drop away, because they don´t make money,” Nussbaum said. “They only do what is much more precious than that — make a world that is worth living in, people who are able to see other human beings as equals and nations that are able to overcome fear and suspicion in favor of sympathetic and reasoned debates.”
Earlier in the ceremony, which was delayed 90 minutes by inclement weather, the College honored Nussbaum by conferring on her an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

President Leo I. Higdon, Jr. also spoke to the graduates about the importance of their education, which, he said, has prepared them to have a meaningful impact in a rapidly changing world.

“You are graduating at a pivotal time in history,” he said. “In a global economic upheaval, traditional companies and organizations seek to redefine themselves and the work they do. Increasingly, they will look to your generation, and specifically to liberal arts graduates, for answers.”

Higdon also encouraged the students to stay connected to the College, to continue to live by the Honor Code and to remain active citizens.

Class speaker Peter St. John ´09, of Essex, Mass., urged his fellow graduates to stay optimistic, even in tough times.
“The hardest part will be to convince ourselves of the possibilities and hang on,” he said. “If you run out of hope at the end of the day, you must rise in the morning and put it on again with your shoes. Hope is the only reason we won´t give in, burn what´s left of the ship and go down with it.

“Imagine getting caught with your optimism hanging out in today´s day and age,” he added. “It feels so risky.”

Class president Nicholas Downing ´09, of Pittsfield, Mass., told his classmates to embrace the opportunities before them and work to provide those same opportunities to future generations.

“We have been given the privilege of an unmatched education, and we now have the responsibility to use that education to leave the world a little better than it was when we arrived,” he said.

During the ceremony, the Oakes and Louise Ames Prize was awarded to Myles Courtland Green ´09, an art major from Westwood, Mass., for his honors thesis, “Oriental Bittersweet and Other Invasive Species: Americans in North America.” The prize, named for a previous president of the College and his wife, is given to a graduating senior who has completed the year´s most outstanding honors study.

The Anna Lord Strauss Medal was awarded to Heather Roseann Day ´09, an American studies major from Williamsburg, Mass., for her outstanding record of community and public service work throughout her four years at Connecticut College. Day was a Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy scholar, a leader on campus, and a tireless advocate for racial and gender equity.

The College Medal — the highest honor that can be conferred on an individual — was awarded to Ann Werner Johnson ´68. A College trustee from 1997 to 2007, Johnson has been a strong advocate for important investments in campus infrastructure and facilities. Her leadership was essential to establishing comprehensive benchmarks and priorities for campus improvements and her gifts to the College have made possible a number of important campus projects, including major renovations to two residence halls.

An honorary doctorate of humane letters was conferred on Barbara Shattuck Kohn ´72, chair of the Board of Trustees. Under Kohn´s leadership, the College has invested in faculty, campus improvements and new programs that enhance the unique strengths of residential liberal arts education. Kohn is a leadership donor to the Annual Fund and strengthened the College by establishing the Barbara Zaccheo Kohn ´72 Professorship, supporting the Kresge Foundation Science Endowment Fund, and underwriting internships for students in the Goodwin-Niering Center for Conservation Biology and Environmental Studies.

Class of 2009 by the Numbers


Graduates:
• 437 Bachelor of Arts degrees
• 3 Master of Arts degrees?
Students with multiple majors:
• 132 double majors
• 4 triple majors

States represented: 29
International graduates: 19 from 17 countries

Latin Honors:
• Summa cum laude graduates: 57
• Magna cum laude graduates: 72
• Cum laude graduates: 97

Students who participated in Study Abroad or Study Away Teach Away: 254 (58% of the class)

Certificates earned from the interdisciplinary academic certificate programs:
• Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology: 7
• Goodwin-Niering Center for Conservation Biology and Environmental Sciences: 12
• Holleran Center´s Program in Community Action: 22
• Museum Studies Certificate: 11
• Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts: 22

Connecticut College Magazine

 
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