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Louis B. Susman, the U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James in London and father of Sally Susman, a 1984 graduate, urged the 437 members of Connecticut College's Class of 2012 to leverage their technological savvy to make their mark on the world.
"Through social media and networking sites you are already involved in the world to a degree that my generation was not," Susman told the graduating class. "A world where issues like the economy, security, climate change and poverty affect us all - wherever we live, whatever our faith; whether we are rich or poor, learned or uneducated, old or young. No longer are we immune or can we isolate ourselves from events elsewhere around the world."
This interrelated world, he added, means we all share an interest in overcoming global challenges, and the generation that includes the Class of 2012 has the greatest stake in the outcome of those efforts. "Half a century ago, in his famous inaugural speech, President Kennedy declared that the 'torch has been passed to a new generation,'" Susman said. "I believe we are now at a similar moment. And nothing inspires my generation more than knowing that young people like you are ready to receive that torch. For as globalization and modern technology make the world increasingly inter-connected, you simply cannot be bystanders."
In his remarks to the graduates, Connecticut College President Leo I. Higdon Jr. indicated his confidence that their class was, indeed, much more than a class of spectators.
"Already you have taken on issues that are important to you and others," he said. "The Class of 2012 includes students who have fought against human trafficking, engaged in dialogues with world leaders, used art to break down barriers, helped a population confront its troubled past. And that's just a small fraction of the impact you've already had on the world.
"You have proven yourselves through your academics, your citizenship, and the ways in which you have engaged yourselves in the world," he added.
Brenner Green of Lisbon, Conn., who was elected to speak on behalf of the graduating class, connected his public service to his academic, athletic and extracurricular experiences at the College. In his first semester, Green appeared in a documentary that chronicles the lives of openly gay and lesbian athletes, and in his speech he noted that his cross-country teammates embodied the College's mission.
"If you know Conn's values, you know that the College seeks to 'make all students feel comfortable, respect each other's differences, and seek common ground,'" he said. "And this proved to be true. My teammates respected me for coming out and made me comfortable being their teammate. I've come to realize that the College's mission and values are a big part of my journey. Conn 'seeks to support and nurture intellectual, emotional, spiritual, creative, and physical development of its student body.' And that's just what it did for me."
Susman received an honorary degree before he spoke. Other honors bestowed during the ceremony included the College's Oakes and Louise Ames Prize, which was awarded to David Liakos, a philosophy major from Wakefield, Mass., for his outstanding honors thesis, "Overcoming Transcendence: Charles Taylor and Nihilism." In his two-part work, Liakos constructs a debate between two philosophers, Bernard Williams and Charles Taylor, on the question of whether ethics should be grounded "naturalistically" - on the basis of our actual psychological needs, desires and dispositions - or "non-naturalistically" - on the basis of what we ought to value, a question he follows with a discussion of nihilism. The prize, named for a president emeritus 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 Jazmin Long, a government major and scholar in the College's Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, from Bridgeport, Conn. The medal is presented to a senior who has done outstanding work in public or community service, including service to the College - and Long has exemplified these attributes. A champion for the rights and dignity of people, Long relentlessly pursued knowledge and skills to better understand systems of power and oppression and bring about a more just society. In New London, she volunteered with the Homeless Hospitality Center, the Drop-in Learning Center and the New London Clinical Day Program. She interned for two summers with the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County in Bridgeport, Conn., and, during her study-away experience in Durban, South Africa, she worked in community centers in two townships. Long was honored with the College's 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award for upholding King's legacy.
The Connecticut College Medal - the highest honor that can be conferred on an individual - was awarded to Barbara Shattuck Kohn, a 1972 Connecticut College graduate who forged a highly successful career in banking at a time when opportunities for women in this field were exceedingly limited. Her acumen, her willingness to take calculated risks and her determination to do what is right have benefited every organization and business with which she has been affiliated. At Connecticut College, her distinguished service includes 13 years as a trustee - six as chair - and three as head of the Campaign for Connecticut College.
Class of 2012 By the Numbers Graduates:
- 437 Bachelor of Arts degrees
- 3 Master of Arts degrees
Students with double majors: 106
States represented: 33
International graduates: 28 from 22 different countries
Students who studied abroad: 229
Students who participated in community learning and service: 291
Percentage of seniors who gave to the College through the senior giving program: 99%, a new record
- Summa cum laude = 18
- Magna cum laude = 42
- Cum laude = 61
- Honors study in the major: 13
- Honors study and distinction in the major: 31
- Distinction in the major field: 131
Certificates earned from the College's interdisciplinary academic centers:
- Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology: 5
- Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment: 8
- Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy: 22
- Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts: 28
Other certificates earned:
- Museum Studies: 10
- Connecticut Teacher Certification Program: 16
The Class of 2012 includes 6 Fulbright fellowship winners, a Mortimer Hays-Brandeis Traveling Fellowship winner and 7 All-American athletes.
Graduating seniors have found employment with a number of well-known companies and organizations, including Amazon, Boys and Girls Club of America, Children's Hospital Boston, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Deloitte, Denver Film Society, Hearst Magazines, Massachusetts General Hospital, NetSuite, NYU Langone Medical Center, Ralph Lauren, Schneider Electric, Talking Points Memo, Teach For America and Weill Cornell Medical Center. Dozens of students were admitted to top graduate schools, including Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, American University, Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis University, California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Dartmouth College Geisel School of Medicine, Duke University, Harvard University, The New School, School of Visual Arts, Stanford University, Teachers College Columbia University and University of Connecticut.