Skip to main content

Connections is the theme as 452 graduate as members of the 'Centennial Class'

Connections was the theme of Connecticut College's 93rd Commencement Sunday - connections to history, to each other, and, as keynote speaker Cynthia Enloe pointed out, to the world at large. See a slide show of photographs from Commencement. See the full list of graduates. Enloe, a 1960 Connecticut College alumna and professor of International Development, Community and Environment at Clark University, told the 452 members of the senior class - dubbed the Centennial Class, as they graduate during the yearlong celebration of the college's founding in 1911 - that connections come with responsibility. "There are always connections between labor and education, gender and class," she said. "Thinking about these connections should make us uneasy."

Enloe drew connections between the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the founding of Connecticut College in the same year. The pioneering women and men who chartered the college just two weeks after the fire would be thinking about their shirtwaists and fashionable clothing and wondering who made them and at what cost, she said. She urged the graduates to take a look at their own clothing labels and to think about their connections to garment workers all over the world. "May you thrive," she told the graduates, "but may you thrive in a way that enhances the justice, the safety and the dignity of everyone who has made the clothes that you are wearing today." Earlier in the ceremony, Enloe was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Connecticut College President Leo I. Higdon Jr.During his remarks, Higdon said the Centennial Class will always have a special connection to Connecticut College's history. "You have the unique experience of graduating when the college is celebrating its 100th anniversary," Higdon said. "Every commencement is an opportunity to look back and to look ahead. Your commencement is special because the whole college is looking with you."

Higdon also spoke about the impressive accomplishments of the class. "When you first arrived on campus, I advised you to take full advantage of all the opportunities inherent in a Connecticut College education - and you have done that," he said. "You have excelled on the stage, in the studio and on the athletic fields. You have become fluent in world languages. You have earned recognition through fellowships from Goldwater, Fulbright and the National Science Foundation, among others. You have shared your talents with the world through study abroad, internships and special research projects. "I am impressed and deeply gratified by the work you have done - it is a strong indication of the impact you will continue to have throughout your lives," he added.

Senior class speaker Charles Lincoln Wesley, of Spokane, Wash., spoke about how Connecticut College has prepared him and his classmates to meet the challenges of a quickly changing world. "We will all have to adapt to new ways of life, new social norms, new technologies, shifts in the global power balance and perhaps significant changes in our earth's environment," he said. "The Class of 2011 - the Centennial Class - is ready to not only accept whatever change comes our way, but to manage that change, influence it and turn it into a positive experience, just like we have been doing for the past four years of our lives." Also during the ceremony, the Oakes and Louise Ames Prize was awarded to Erin Margaret Wilson, a history major from Longmeadow, Mass., for her honors thesis, "The Forced Expulsion of Ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II: Memory, Identity and History." Through an analysis of memoirs and reports written by the German expellees, Wilson's thesis demonstrates the power of memory and the construction of identity.

The prize, named for a previous president of the college and his wife, is given to a graduating senior who has completed this year's most outstanding honors study. The equally prestigious Anna Lord Strauss Medal was awarded to Celia C. Whitehead, an anthropology and Hispanic studies major from Bath, Maine, for her exceptional scholarship and community activism. A long-time advocate for sustainability and healthy eating, Whitehead has volunteered in New London at Fiddleheads Food Coop, the New London Community Meal Center and F.R.E.S.H., an organization that promotes healthy eating, social justice and ecological sustainability. On campus, she has been a leader with the Spokespeople bike cooperative and the SPROUT student organic garden. Whitehead has worked locally with adults and youth through the Connecticut Storytelling Center, the New London Public Library and New London Adult Education, and in her hometown, she plays guitar and sings for people in housing complexes who are homebound.

The Connecticut College Medal - the highest honor that can be conferred on an individual - was awarded to Sylvia Pasternak Marx, a 1957 Connecticut College graduate and a trustee from 1999 to 2004, and John Niblack, a retiring trustee who has served for nine years. Marx, a superb concert pianist and teacher with a life-long passion for music, and her husband, Leonard Marx, have supported many key initiatives on campus, including the renovation of common rooms in 26 residence halls, a teaching seminar for new faculty, a professorship in music and an endowment fund for science education. Niblack is a generous supporter of music, art and education initiatives at many institutions. At Connecticut College, he and his wife Heidi Niblack honored the life and work of Professor Charles Chu by creating the Charles Chu Asian Art Reading Room and establishing the Chu-Niblack Curator and Professorship.

Through the Jack Niblack '98 Music Lessons and Jack Niblack '98 Scholarship and Internship Fund, they have helped hundreds of students develop their musical talents and pursue their educational interests. Commencement activities began Saturday with Baccalaureate, an annual celebration of the spiritual diversity of the graduating class. Anita DeFrantz '74, an Olympic bronze medalist, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and a Connecticut College trustee emeritus, was the keynote speaker.

Class of 2011 'By the Numbers' Graduates: - 452 Bachelors of Arts degrees - 3 Masters of Arts degrees

Students with multiple majors: - Double majors: 131 - Triple major: 1

States represented: 30 International graduates: 21 from 15 different countries

Students who studied abroad: 248 Students who participated in community learning and service: 323

Percentage of seniors who gave to the College through the senior giving program: 98% (a new record)

Latin Honors: - Summa cum laude = 51 - Magna cum laude = 74 - Cum laude = 92

Departmental Honors: - Honors study in the major: 13 - Honors study and distinction in the major: 41 - Distinction in the major field: 166

Certificates earned from the college's interdisciplinary academic centers: - Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology: 3 - Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment: 11 - Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy: 18 - Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts: 30

Other certificates earned: - Museum Studies: 4 - Connecticut Teacher Certification Program: 11 The Centennial Class includes two Fulbright fellowship winners, two Goldwater scholars, an NSF Graduate Research fellow, a Jack Kent Cooke scholar, a Davis Projects for Peace winner, a two-time finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, Field Hockey's all-time leading scorer, and 3 All-American athletes. Graduating seniors have found employment with a number of well known companies and organizations, including: Amazon, Bloomberg, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Massachusetts General Hospital, Peace Corps, Polo Ralph Lauren, Royal Bank of Scotland, Scholastic, Sonalysts Inc., Target Corporation and Teach for America. Dozens of students have already been admitted to prestigious graduate schools, including: Brown University, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Duke University, Harvard Business School, Harvard Medical School, Northeastern University, New York University, Tufts University, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, University of Connecticut School of Law, University of Glasgow and University of Washington. - By Amy Martin

May 24, 2011