The College’s 176th Commencement brought picture-perfect spring weather as 306 members of the Class of 2014 received their diplomas at an outdoor ceremony on Sunday, May 18th.
Commencement, which took place on the Roberts Hall Green, began with a fanfare by a brass quintet and a procession of the graduating seniors, trailed by the faculty garbed in traditional academic regalia.
Following a welcome from President Daniel H. Weiss, Senior Associate Dean of the College Steve Watter offered opening remarks.
Watter called the Class of 2014 “a force of nature,” noting that their four years at Haverford coincided with such extraordinary natural events as the Virginia earthquake, the Polar Vortex, and super storm Hurricane Sandy. He went on to recount a story from the memoir of the late Stephen G. Cary, a longtime Quaker leader and Haverford administrator, and to talk about the importance of trust in human relationships and the values enshrined in Haverford’s own Honor Code. “We know you,” he told the graduates in conclusion. “We know you will make the world a better and more humane place.”
Next, student speaker Oscar Wang delivered his “Remarks from the Class of 2014,” observing that: “Different futures await us all. But just as how our different beginnings changed into this shared conclusion, Haverford will always remain part of us regardless of the paths we all take from here. We will always carry within us the common values we have gained from this special place.”
Bryn Mawr College President Kim Cassidy, quoting a famous speech by former Rutgers University President Mason Welch Gross, told the soon-to-be graduates that, as they plan their futures, “trust your sense of joy as your guide. … That is the way in which we come to know excellence.”
Weiss, presiding over his first commencement as president of Haverford College, offered his own Top 10 List of things he hoped members of the Class of 2014 had learned during their time at the College. On Weiss’s list: “To discern the difference between cynicism and skepticism;” “To recognize that careful listening is generally more interesting than talking;” and “To accept with grace and humility your good fortune, and to appreciate that with wisdom and greater understanding comes the responsibility to use your gifts well.”
Weiss then presided over the conferring of honorary degrees. The first went to poet Elizabeth Alexander, a professor of English and American Studies at Yale University. Alexander spoke about the “collaborative enterprise” of education and ended with a poem she wrote about Quaker educator Prudence Crandall, who opened a school for African American girls in 1833:
Learning is the one perfect religion,
its path correct, narrow, certain, straight.
At its end it blossoms and billows
into vari-colored polyphony:
the sweet infinity of true knowledge.
Also receiving an honorary degree at Commencement was Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp, who talked about pioneering environmental scientist Charles Wurster ’52, a Haverford graduate who was one of the founders of the Environmental Defense Fund and has served on the board for an uninterrupted 48 years. “You’re sitting where Charlie sat,” Krupp told the graduates. “Now go and do what he did. Find your passion and make it your life’s work.”
The final honorary degree recipient, William Bowen, president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Princeton University, addressed his remarks to the controversy over former University of California, Berkeley, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who had been selected to be a fourth honorary degree recipient. (After Haverford students and faculty protested his role in a 2011 incident on Berkeley’s campus in which campus police used violence to break up a non-violent demonstration, Birgeneau declined to attend Commencement.)
Bowen expressed disappointment regarding the tone of a letter sent to Birgeneau by members of the Haverford College community, and also about Birgeneau’s decision not to come to the ceremony. “In my view, they should have encouraged him to come and engage in a genuine discussion… I think he should be with us today.” Bowen offered examples from Princeton and Notre Dame, where controversial speakers did come to campus amid protest, and concluded with the hope that the incident would be “a true learning moment and that Haverford will go forward, as I am confident it will, as a great liberal arts college committed, as always, to both the principle of non-violent protest and to the enduring values of openness and respect for diverse views.”
Concluding the Commencement ceremony was the conferring of degrees. After Provost Kim Benston presented the Class of 2014, Faculty Marshall and Emeritus Professor of Astronomy Bruce Partridge read the names of each of the 306 graduates as they came up to the stage to receive their diplomas.
Finally, with everyone back in their seats, the faculty rose to give their students a standing ovation, and, amid loud cheers, the newly minted college graduates tossed their graduation caps high into the air.
See a complete list of the Class of 2014 graduates here.
See photos of Commencement 2014 here.
See a chronicle of Commencement on social media here.
Read President Dan Weiss' piece "Freedoms We Celebrate", published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, here.