Commencement 2017 was a memorable one. Rainy weather forced us inside for only the second time in two decades. For the first time since being renamed, the Keiper Recreation Center served as the venue for the ceremony. Preserving a long-standing tradition, several trustees and I led the class through the Metzler Gate despite the inclement weather.
With rainy and cool weather outside, the Keiper Center proved to be a warm and comfortable setting for the more than 3,000 family members, friends, faculty and staff who attended the ceremony. Inspired music performed by the orchestra and choir captured both the joy and bittersweet feelings that filled the venue. Each graduate heard their name announced and had their individual moment crossing the stage to receive a diploma, often to boisterous cheers from family members and classmates.
Senior Sophie Herzing from St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania, had the honor of serving as the student speaker. A creative writing major and Lycoming Scholar, Sophie delivered a wonderful speech sharing her deep passion for Lycoming College and profound gratitude to her classmates with whom she had shared so many experiences. Reflecting upon their time together, she encouraged the Class of 2017: “…to save these moments, these smiles, these pieces of wisdom you’ve learned for when you need them most. When things feel most ambiguous and unsure, remind yourself of where you came from. You will always have Lycoming.”
While the accomplishments of the Class of 2017 were the focal point of the ceremony, the College also awarded honorary degrees to two extraordinary women: the Honorable Marie White Bell ’56 and Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, the CEO of Say Yes to Education. Both speakers represent exceptional role models for the graduates. An African American woman, Judge Bell confidently used her Lycoming education to blaze new paths and break many barriers during a distinguished career. Dr. Schmitt-Carey has become one of the leaders of the educational reform movement in our country and her organization partners with communities to help them give every public high school graduate access to a college education or other post-secondary scholarship. She closed her commencement address with a poignant reflection on the loss of her mother and encouraged the graduates to seize this moment of their graduation to express love and gratitude to family members and others close to them.
Members of the class of 2017 were themselves trailblazers. men’s soccer advanced all the way to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA’s, and men’s basketball made two consecutive appearances in the NCAA post-season tournament for the first time. The choir traveled to China and performed in Beijing and Shanghai. Theater graduates tackled new works such as “For Colored Girls.” Several members of the class benefitted from funding from the Mellon Foundation — another first — and conducted research with faculty as Mellon Fellows. Others went to the Dominican Republic and helped to shape the new Warrior Coffee Project. Physics and astronomy majors broke in the planetarium, laboratories, classrooms and study rooms of the gleaming new Lynn Science Center. Graduates also participated in the inaugural “Take Back the Night” program and raised campus consciousness about sexual violence and helped to organize events that expanded cultural awareness on campus.
We are grateful for their contributions and proud of them. They are Warriors for life!
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