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Cem Varon, first in his class, was the last to be greeted by President Grabois
The first indeed was last. Valedictorian Cem Varon, summa cum laude, high honors in mathematics, accepted the final diploma awarded by President Neil Grabois during the 177th commencement, largest in university history.

Varon, from Istanbul, Turkey, overcame two B-pluses (in the initial general education courses he took) to complete his Colgate education with a 4.17 grade point average while majoring in mathematics and economics. Cem also was a Link for three years, helping first-year students adjust to campus life. He was a member of the Sal staff using a camera he bought with money from a math prize he won sophomore year. He lived in Cushman House, a loose confederacy of "amazingly" close friends -- all who sported leis at graduation, compliments of Kauionalani Waller '98.

Though he had never been to the United States, Varon applied to several American colleges. He was drawn to Colgate by the attractive financial aid package offered him and by Gary Ross '77, who was director of admission at the time. "It was amazing the way he corresponded with me. I felt Colgate wanted me here."

Once he arrived, Varon discovered the personal touch continued. As he puts it, "I had a good experience with the mathematics faculty." Professors Dan Saracino and Al Strand, in particular, became close friends with Varon and had "an amazing impact. They know a lot about my life and were certainly more than teachers to me."

In economics, Varon liked the material and was inspired by Professor Bob Turner and affected by "his advising and care for me."

The biggest adjustment for Varon was from big city life to the small-town ways of Hamilton. He came to love the area, though, during two summers he spent on campus doing research. "It's absolutely beautiful here."

Varon's math thesis was a study of the independence of the continuum hypothesis, "basically a proof that draws from a set theory and mathematical logic," explains Cem. "It was a mind-blowing experience," he clarifies.

"I had not dealt with such confusing subject matter in my life and at some points I wondered if it was beyond me. The reading wasn't making sense and then it started clicking. There are difficult concepts and it feels good to know them."

Varon's class rank and accompanying honor is "nice, but there were so many other important things I did at Colgate that really made this a great experience for me."

Topping the list was the experience on the Link staff. "I really wanted to give back to Colgate," says Varon, who has remained close to all three Link groups he helped usher into college life. "It's a good feeling to know I have been important to others."

Varon, who was recruited by trustee Rob Jones '72, will work for Morgan Stanley but first he will return to Turkey for a month. Throughout college, Cem's roommate for four years, Nick Gould, and his family hosted Varon. This summer he will be able to return the favor in his homeland.

"I really liked Colgate and I'll miss the things I was able to do here," says Cem Varon, who did so much. "On the other hand, I'm happy to move and in the near future I hope I'll be able to contribute to Colgate." Again. JDH

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Impressions of Graduation 1998