The Colgate Scene
July 2008

Commencement 2008

Honorary degrees were awarded to (from left to right, shown with President Chopp, third from right): baccalaureate speaker Gail O'Day, the A.H. Shatford Professor of preaching and New Testament at Emory University; Bill McKibben, renowned environmentalist and writer; John Cushman III '63, Colgate trustee emeritus and well-known leader in the commercial real estate industry; journalist Lesley Stahl; and Dr. LaSalle Leffal, one of the nation's leading oncologists. The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, was presented her award in absentia. She led a peaceful revolt in Burma in the 1980s, promoting democratic reforms and free elections, and has been under political house arrest by the Burmese military for much of the past 19 years. [Enlarge] [Photos by Susan Kahn]

Journalist Lesley Stahl, keynote speaker at Colgate's 187th commencement, urged the graduates to help change the mood of a nation beset by concerns over the Iraq war, gasoline prices, and even food prices. She said they should urge political candidates to "restore our national and natural pluck and spunk."

Fast facts on the Class of 2008

Valedictorian:
Fernanda Delmondes de Carvalho, Salvador, Brazil
Neuroscience major

Salutatorians:
Lydia Gulick, Bellevue, Washington, Japanese major
Ana Iarca, Galati, Romania, Chemistry major

Bachelor of arts degrees: 676

Master of arts in teaching degrees: 2

Elected to Phi Beta Kappa: 38

Top five majors: Political science, English, history, economics, sociology and anthropology

See also: online features including Google map of seniors' destinations, profiles, photos, video interviews, speeches, and more

Stahl said seniors are entering an "America not as happy as it has been in the past. We have allowed the terrorists to terrorize us into a society of timidity. We feel angst, and cold feet." But the country has showed resilience by bouncing back from similar "down" periods in our history, she said, because "courage and grit are in our DNA. We come from hearty stock."

Stahl, a correspondent on the CBS program 60 Minutes since 1991, told the seniors it's OK if they don't know what they want to do right away; she didn't find her way to journalism until age 30.

"You're going to have to go out there and discover it. How will you know if you've found it? You'll know because you'll enjoy the doing of the work itself; not the pay, not the promotion, not the pat on the back from your boss, but the sheer pleasure of the slow, steady crawl."

President Rebecca S. Chopp told the class that their leadership skills have defined them.

Chopp highlighted the many ways they left their mark, specifically noting efforts to bring environmental sustainability to the forefront. The class, with 94 percent contributing, raised approximately $23,000 to launch an environmental sustainability fund, which will be used for, among other things, summer internships and improvements to forests owned by Colgate. The Board of Trustees will contribute $23,000 to the fund.

"You put your skills into practice," she told them. "You saw need, and you found ways to help."

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