Smiles, tears of joy, and great advice filled the day on Saturday, May 18, as members of the Class of 2013 ended their journeys at Wheaton and prepared to start new ones out in the awaiting world.
At Wheaton’s 178th Commencement ceremony, former federal judge and attorney Nancy Gertner offered the graduates sound advice during her witty and thoughtful keynote address. In a rapidly changing world in which the best way forward is not always clear, take responsibility, she told them, do something rather than nothing, and create your own path.
Referring to the title of renowned historian Howard Zinn’s memoir, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, Gertner encouraged the 372 graduating seniors to view the world as a moving train that we are all responsible for directing, and to remain flexible about how they go about meeting that obligation.
“It’s not about fashioning your life’s plan today. It’s not about drawing the linear path for you to follow. It is really only about taking responsibility for the direction of your country, for our neighbor’s plight, for our really pernicious politics. It’s about changing the direction of that train and the world,” said Gertner, who is known for her championing of civil rights, civil liberties, and the rights of women, often in highly controversial cases.
She received an honorary degree from the college, as did distinguished alumnae Patricia Flaherty ’83, senior project manager for Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services in Boston, and Diane Leshefsky Troderman ’63, a noted philanthropist in education and Jewish culture.
More than 600 alumnae/i were on campus to participate in the ceremony and celebrate Reunion. They came from 31 states and a number of countries, including Aruba, Venezuela, Singapore and Switzerland. Ellen LeSure Whitcher ’38 traveled all the way from Alaska to be here and celebrate her 75th Reunion. And Christine Todd Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey and head of the Environmental Protection Agency, celebrated her 45th Reunion with the Class of 1968.
During Commencement, President Ronald A. Crutcher took a moment to acknowledge these returning alums as well as eight outstanding members of the faculty who are retiring—Tim Barker, Grace Baron, Darlene Boroviak, Barbara Brennessel, Tim Cunard, Bernadette Houldsworth, Derek Price and Chuck Straley.
Addressing the Class of 2013, he noted how their leadership and energy has enhanced the campus and encouraged them to continue their leadership roles as citizens of the world:
“With your Wheaton liberal arts education, you have learned to listen closely, think carefully and search for the truth. Our vision for Wheaton is to graduate students who are global citizens prepared to lead in a complex society. This means that you are empowered and impassioned about promoting change locally and globally no matter what you end up doing or where you end up living. Your task now is to find ‘the genuine in yourself’ and act on it.”
Photos by Keith Nordstrom and Nicki Pardo