The Colgate Scene
July 2007

Commencement 2007
Tips for a life well-lived

Ian Maron-Kolitch hugs another classmate before the start of the commencement ceremony. Maron-Kolitch was this year's recipient of the 1819 Award, the highest honor given to a graduating senior. [Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]

In a triumphant return to their alma mater, former co-anchor of ABC's World News Tonight Bob Woodruff '83 and journalist Lee McConaughy Woodruff '82 together offered practical life tips to the Class of 2007 as the keynote speakers at Colgate's 186th commencement.

Prior to their speech — which earned them a standing ovation — the Woodruffs and four others received honorary doctorates from Colgate. The couple began their address by describing Bob Woodruff's traumatic brain injury from an improvised explosive device in Iraq nearly a year and a half ago, and his long and difficult road to recovery (see related story, page 12).

"I wish I could protect all of you from the ups and downs of life, from the bends in the road to come," he told the graduates. "At your age, I think I believed that life traveled pretty much in a straight line . . . But life wouldn't be life if it didn't have some curve balls in store."

Fast facts on the Class of 2007

Valedictorian: Pian Shu, Chengdu, China
Mathematics and mathematical economics double major

Salutatorian: Bethann Weick, Kintnersville, Pa.
Latin American studies major; geography minor

Bachelor of arts degrees 674
Master of arts in teaching degrees 4
Elected to Phi Beta Kappa 38
High Distinction in the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum 9
Certified to teach 3

They then offered their top 10 tactics for the real world, including "snap it on — buckle it up."

As Lee Woodruff explained, "In the military hospitals and VAs [Veterans Affairs clinics], we've seen so many young men and women robbed of limitless futures by roadside bombs. But brain injuries happen in this country, too — 1.5 million a year from motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, playground falls, even domestic violence . . . Wear a helmet and buckle your seat belt."

Among their other suggestions were: "kiss a lot of frogs" by getting to know many different kinds of people; find mentors; recycle; learn, think, and act globally; and say thanks to parents.

Bob Woodruff wrapped up by expressing gratitude to his alma mater. "I want to thank this school, Colgate University, for magically giving me Lee. Because, while she has always had my back on our journey together, in so many ways she is also the woman who saved my life."

Colgate President Rebecca S. Chopp said in her remarks that the Class of 2007 had accomplished a great deal since they arrived in Hamilton.

"You achieved, you learned, you played, you formed great friendships, and you grew into adulthood on this campus," she said. "You lived with passion." She urged the graduates to hold onto that same passion in the years ahead. "Pursue your profession or career with passion — with intelligence, fun, hard work, spirit. Engage in your community and build it, passionately.

"Make a difference in the world," she continued. "Drink deeply of the wells of human experience in the arts, in athletics, in culture, in education." — Caroline Jenkins

Rain-geared friends and family brave a cool and damp afternoon to attend the commencement ceremony at Colgate. Li Yin Zhou receives congratulations after accepting her diploma.

Ryan Harbison reads over a card after being one of three members of Colgate's Class of 2007 commissioned into the United States Marine Corps over graduation weekend. Now a 2nd lieutenant, the history major and member of Phi Kappa Tau will spend six months in Quantico, Va., and then head to Pensacola, Fla., for flight school. Ryan Colameo will also become a Marine aviator, and Tom Leonard will attend law school to become a Judge Advocate General lawyer. Senior Class Orator Jeff Fein '07 gives his class one last thing to think about, and laugh about during the Senior Class Day Luncheon.
Mapping the senior class — online

Colgate's Class of 2007 graduates sure are going places — and they gave us the scoop, through a new online feature where they shared their post-graduation plans, personal profiles, and photos. An interactive mapping program plots their destinations, from working as an automotive parts design engineer and quality manager in Waukegan, Ill., to researching the impact of Western classical music on the music scene in Bangkok, Thailand, and from participating in a UNESCO archaeological dig in Lucca, Italy, to teaching elementary school in rural South Dakota.

You can check out video interviews with the seniors below (and others), see where other members of the Class of 2007 are headed, watch a video of commencement weekend, listen to the speeches, and more at

"I'm ready to try new things and different things, and understand how I fit better into this environment and this world."

Honoris Causa

Honorary degrees were awarded to (from left): John A. Golden '66, founder of John A. Golden Associates and the outgoing chairman of Colgate's Board of Trustees; Raymond Cross, president of Morrisville State College since 1998; award-winning photographer Carrie Mae Weems, who has taught extensively at colleges throughout the country; Bob Woodruff '83, journalist and former co-anchor of ABC's World News Tonight; journalist, freelance writer, and former PR executive Lee McConaughy Woodruff '82; and David Ellenson, the eighth president of Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, where he is also I.H. and Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish religious thought, who delivered the sermon during the morning's baccalaureate service. [Enlarge]

"I'm ready to try new things and different things, and understand how I fit better into this environment and this world."
Sophie Connolly
Woodbridge, Conn.
Major: Art and art history, English
Activities: Outdoor education staff member
Next step: Assistant to prints and drawings department, Yale University Art Gallery
"If you can dream something, you can do it at Colgate."
Henoch Derbew
New York, N.Y
Major: Classics, history
Activities: Model African Union, catching a movie, intramural sports, the Jug, enjoying a meal
Next step: Pursuing a masters in public policy at Georgetown University
"I'm leaving Colgate . . . really feeling confident in the things I've done here and in my abilities and where I'm going."
Alison Rhodes
Brookfield, N.H.
Major: Sociology and anthropology
Next step: Serving for six months as a medical volunteer in Nepal and Ghana, helping provide medical care to the poor; then, start the medical school application process.
"Looking back at these four years, I can see myself becoming a much more complete person."
Pian Shu, Valedictorian
Chengdu, China
Major: Economics, mathematics
Activities: Buddhist Student Association, summer research, cultural/international clubs, math/econ tutoring
'Gate highlights: Courses, faculty, summer, London Economics Study Group, Taylor Lake, everything!
Next step: Pursuing a PhD in economics at MIT
"One of the best things I've learned about leadership here at Colgate is to be bold and be brave, and that it's OK to go out there and speak your mind."
Jeff Smidt
Andover, Mass.
Major: History
Activities: Colgate Thirteen, Phi Delta Theta, Konosioni, WRCU
'Gate highlights: Either singing the national anthem at Giants Stadium, or performing "God Bless America" at this year's Fiesta Bowl, arguably the greatest college football game ever played!
Next step: Analyst, JPMorgan Chase Bank, working on the banking side of private equity and hedge funds
Top of page
Table of contents
<< Previous: Making an impact... Next: Passion for the Climb >>