MARLBORO — Snowflakes drifted in the foothills of Vermont during the first-ever joined undergraduate and graduate commencement at Marlboro College.
Dean Nicyper, chairman of the Board of Marlboro College, welcomed family, friends and faculty, and then President Kevin Quigley congratulated the graduating students at the first commencement that he has presided over. The theme for Quigley's first year has been "one college," with the intention of uniting the two campuses to collaborate and learn from one another. At the commencement he highlighted the "creative" undergraduate students and the "visionary" graduate students and noted that despite their separate campuses, he sees many commonalities, other than just the name.
"Both program traditions are rooted in the very soil here," said Quigley during Saturday's commencement exercise.
He mentioned that students share an understanding for the importance of membership and that living and learning are interrelated in both programs. He also emphasized three educational missions and values of the school, which he said all of the speakers embody — community service, social innovation and stewardship.
The first senior addressee, Laura "Rainbow" Stakiwicz, '16, was warmly welcomed to the stage by the commencement attendees. Throughout her speech the audience laughed, nodded their heads in agreement, smiled and wept tears from their eyes.
"I want to speak briefly about the elephant squeezed into this auditorium," said Stakiwicz. "The thing that no one talks about at commencement speeches because it doesn't match the triumphant nature of the event."
Stakiwicz admitted she was scared and afraid; for the past two weeks she said she has experienced "sudden shocks of fear" and panic when wondering what comes next. Despite any fear or imperfections, she said Marlboro College cared about her through all her trials and that was a lesson she would keep with her and hoped that others would experience as well.
"I learned to trust myself here because I was trusted. I learned to value myself because I was valued," said Stakiwicz.
She said she was able to believe those things because of the message Marlboro College sent to her: "We believe in you, trust you, we know you're afraid and we have been there, dude. We know you're imperfect, so are we."
Stakiwicz encouraged her graduating class to remember the bravery and beauty they have gained from the journey and to believe in others in return. She also asked them to be wise and cautious, yet take risks and love ardently. Stakiwicz graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater.
Heidi Doyle, who earned her BA in 1994 and received her Master of Arts in Teaching and Technology on Saturday, spoke next. Somewhat related to Quigley's speech, she noted the vast similarities between Marlboro's programs — undergraduate, which are offered on the campus in Marlboro, and graduate, which are offered in Brattleboro.
She also recited a Steve Jobs quote that she found fitting: "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."
Doyle mentioned that she has been fortunate enough to find her passion and that Marlboro helped her transform from a librarian to an educator, to think for herself, dig deeper and learn how to accept challenges.
"Marlboro taught me how to find my passion and how to illuminate a pathway for others," said Doyle.
Honorary degrees were conferred upon Robert Gard, Jr., chairman of the board at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, and Nadinne Cruz, an advocate and practitioner of service learning and experiential education in colleges and universities across the country.
In Gard's speech, he encouraged the graduates to include elements of service in their future, which he said not only gives a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, but also contributes to one's mental health and longevity.
"Don't ever believe that poverty and injustice are so great that what you can do does not matter," said Gard.
He also inspired others to work for a cause they believe in. The 89-year-old Gard said, "Nobody loves life like an aging man."
Cruz, who is originally from the Philippines, spoke about her experiences from her formal education, which included studies at the University of the Philippines, University of San Francisco, Marquette University, University of Minnesota, and most recently the California Institute of Integral Studies. She noted she has a tendency to critique higher education, but chose to mention mostly her positive reflections from her three-day visit of the campus.
"Marlboro has the elements that indicate its direction is headed true north," said Cruz.
"True north," she explained, means the college is oriented in ways that already address challenges it faces and that the college incorporates inter, cross and trans disciplinary teaching in learning. Cruz challenged Marlboro to expand to a transepistemic disciplinary, which she said is about including the entire universe of knowledge, including community ways of knowing.
The valediction speeches were given by Luis Rosa, Dean of Students, and Lori Hanau, co-chairwoman of Community Stewardship for the Management Programs.
Immediately following were refreshments in the dining hall and a dedication of the Syner Center for the Visual Arts.
The Rebecca Willow Prize was awarded to graduated Ian Hitchcock and Christopher Lamb. The Audrey Alley Gorton Award was given to Jocelyn (Marceline) Mitchell. The Hilly van Loon (loan) Prize was awarded to Lily Kane, Sophie Gorjance and Liliana Hollertz. The William Davisson Prize was awarded to Solomon Botwick-Ries and Felix Jarrar. The Ryan Larsen Memorial Prize was awarded to Matthew McIntosh and Trevor Asbury. The Helen W. Clark Prize was awarded to Emily Tatro and Ethan Minkema. The Sally and Valerio Montanari Theatre Prize was awarded to Laura (Rainbow) Stakiwicz. The Dr. Loren C. Bronsen Award for Excellence in Classics was awarded to Adam Wood. The Roland W. Boyden Prize was awarded to Matthew Czuba, Lauren Hunley and Edward Suprenant. The Buck Turner Prize was awarded to Megan Stypulkoski and Naji Forest Pride. The Freshman/Sophomore Essay Prize was awarded to Helen Pinch with special mention to Willa Decker for "The Photographed Image as a Phenomenological Account." The Robert H. MacArthur Prize was awarded for first place to Christopher Maleney, second place (tie) — Helen Pinch and Andrea Tirrell and Honorable Mention — Daniel Medeiros. The Robert E. Engel Award was given to Andrea Tirrell. The Jedediah Adam Leland Fels (JALF) Award was given to Saron Zewdie. The Ellen McCulloch-Lovell Prize was awarded to Anna Loucka. The Presidents Award was given to Teresa Benevento, Rachel Ruppel, Heidi Doyle and Robert Crowley.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275