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Ivy Day 2021 Closing Remarks

Denise Wingate Materre ’74, Vice President for Alumnae Relations


Watch on Facebook: Denise Wingate Materre’s remarks start at 1:07.

I am Denise Wingate Materre. I am a member of the great class of 1974 and currently your vice president for alumnae relations. It is my honor and privilege to greet you here today—

the class of 2021, soon to be graduates and our newest alums.

In this brief time I get to share with you I want to affirm three things:

You are phenomenal.

You are enough.

You are ready.

I know this past year has been a challenge for you. In spite of the challenges, this year has offered unforeseen opportunities, unexpected moments of wonder and lots of practice in resilience. As you adapted to the unforeseen, the unexpected and totally unwelcome pandemic, you found a way ... you found your way.[And as President McCartney said: you found your thread]. How do I know this? Because you are here today. I, along with the president, provost, faculty and alumnae watching from around the world, celebrate you. You will learn as I have, that flexibility, adaptability and resilience are some of the greatest tools you will need to take with you into the future ... and, you are ready.

I have heard from many of your classmates and we just a few minutes ago we heard from Esther, Smith has been your home. And, like many of our homes (I’ve learned not to use absolutes, there can be joy, laughter, setbacks and triumphs, learning and limits). The point is, whatever home means to you, I hope Smith has been a place of exploration and discovery, listening and growing, a place that has fostered your curiosity and fueled your dreams, but mostly I hope it has been a place that has helped you to know that you matter and that you belong. Our homes, and Smith is no exception, can be far from perfect. But one thing is true: You came to us—with all your glorious imperfections—and you made us better. For whatever you have found here, we too, have grown and taken on more shape, texture and dimension because you were here.

Now, as you embark on this next chapter, I want you to know as alums you will join an audacious, talented and spirited network of 53,000 active, vibrant Smithies who eagerly welcome you.

To start you off, on behalf of the 50th Reunion Class—the great Class of 1971—I am pleased to present a gift of $2,021 to you—the graduating class of 2021—as seed money for YOUR milestone 50th Reunion ... that will take place in 2071.

The money will be deposited on your behalf into your class treasury. Although the class of 1971 regrets they are unable to celebrate your graduation here with you this weekend in person, please remember how very proud they are of you.

And tonight, we will set off a spark of light in your honor that will truly light up the world. In honor of you and all that shines bright, as we illuminate the campus, Smithies worldwide will light their candles, their lanterns and their luminarias to welcome and celebrate you, the graduating class of 2021!

As I stand before you to officially welcome you in becoming alums, I want you to know being an alum is an invitation to lifelong relationships, engagement and connection to Smith and to Smithies. I want you to know this is your inheritance. As you receive your diplomas and pass through the Grécourt Gates, we—your siblings from every demographic of race, ethnicity, identity, geography, career and imagined reality—stand with open arms to embrace you, guide you and walk along beside you. Know this: We got you ... and, you are ready.

I recently met with a poet in the area, Jena Schwartz, whose words inspired me as I prepared my remarks for today. One of the lines that I absolutely love from her poem “The Future Loves You Already,” is, and I quote: “The future takes up so much room / we can’t help but expand in her presence.”

I want to encourage you today as you move into your next phase of transition, whether it be career, graduate study or personal exploration, whether with confident knowing or absolute uncertainty, to please reach out, and we will reach back. We will reach back to remind you that you are phenomenal. You are enough. And you are ready. Learn to value your own voice and to use it wisely. Speak truth to power and handle it with care. Find what nourishes you, and give yourself plenty, then give it generously to others. Live for the moments you can’t put into words. But mostly, come join us.