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‘Creative Confidence’ is Theme for Smith Commencement
In her Commencement address Sunday, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith urged members of the Smith class of 2016 to tap their own “creative confidence” to help change the world.
“Take that Smith intensity, which I love about you, and take it with you,” said Smith—an award-winning MIT-trained engineer and the first woman to lead White House technology policy. “You have deep talents and extraordinary training—and our world needs you.”
In a speech that cited pioneering women leaders from suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton to space-race mathematician Katherine Johnson, Smith urged graduates to “be inspired by each other and build with each other.”
“Have the confidence to take action, to break molds, to be your true selves,” Smith told graduates assembled in the windy, sunlit Quadrangle on campus. “Your path will not be exactly what you expect, but I do predict it will be extraordinary!”
Celebrating creativity and a passion for learning were recurring themes in the weekend’s commencement and reunion events on campus.
At Sunday’s 138th Commencement, Smith awarded 757 degrees: 684 undergraduates received A.B. or S.B. degrees, and 73 students earned advanced degrees. The 2016 graduates came to the college from 41 states and 32 countries.
Smith awarded honorary degrees to Megan Smith and five other outstanding women leaders:
- Cartoonist and memoirist Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home, Dykes to Watch Out For;MacArthur Genius Award winner
- Roslyn Brock, chairman of the NAACP board of directors
- Ruchira Gupta, a leader in the international fight against sex trafficking
- American soccer icon and Olympic and World Cup champion Abby Wambach
- NASA astronaut and engineer Stephanie D. Wilson
Andrea Hairston, the Louise Wolff Kahn 1931 Professor of Theatre and Africana Studies received this year’s Honored Professor Award.
Those many Smith moments and traditions forever tie us to the Smith community.
Smith President Kathleen McCartney praised Hairston, a member of the Smith class of 1974, for teaching, writing and performing “that has left a mark on decades of students, audiences and scholars.”
Senior class President Bree Currier reflected on the “many opportunities to grow as individuals and come together as a community” that Smith has offered over the past four years.
“Those many Smith moments and traditions forever tie us to the Smith community,” Currier told her classmates.
President McCartney also cited the community that graduates now join as they leave the college to take on new challenges.
“Know that although you leave Smith today, you do not leave it behind,” McCartney said. “As much as Smith has changed each of your lives, you have changed Smith just as much. Smith is a movement, and today it carries you forward. May you make that movement your own.”
For Smith senior Emma Martin, the narrative of ending and beginnings held especially true at Sunday’s commencement.
In the audience watching her graduate were her grandmother, Nancy Martin—a former custodian at the college—and Emma’s mother, Laura Martin, who will start classes this coming fall as an Ada Comstock Scholar at Smith.
“I feel like I’m honoring my family’s history by graduating from Smith,” said Emma Martin, an education and child studies major who is starting a master’s program in education this fall at Mount Holyoke College.
As Emma walked onstage to receive her degree, she mimed “I love you, mom” for the big screen.
Sunday’s ceremony was the final Smith College event for Jennifer Walters, the associate dean of the college and dean of religious life. Walters is leaving Smith for a new position as dean of the undergraduate college at Bryn Mawr.
President McCartney offered Walters a blessing in return for all those she has given at Smith over the years.
“For healing us with inspirational words during challenging times; for serving as a holding environment for students, staff and faculty alike, we offer our gratitude and our love as you embark on your next journey,” McCartney said.
The college also paid special tribute to Hampshire County Sheriff Robert J. Garvey, who is retiring after 30 years.
Garvey, whose “booming voice” has opened two decades of Smith commencement ceremonies, is known “as one of the most progressive sheriffs in the nation, emphasizing treatment, dignity and education as essential to rehabilitation,” McCartney said.
Removing his traditional top hat to don a new white Smith College baseball cap, Garvey’s allowed his voice to boom once more across the Quadrangle.
“The 138th Commencement of Smith College is now adjourned,” he intoned. “God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”