As the country continues to be tested by a weak economic recovery, award–winning broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff highlighted the challenges graduates face as they head out into the world.
“The prosperity that my and your parents’ generation enjoyed for the past several decades – indeed, that you enjoyed when you arrived here at Union - has stalled in the aftermath of the financial collapse and the worst recession since the Great Depression,” Woodruff told the 520 students in the Class of 2011 who received their degrees under overcast skies during Commencement on Hull Plaza Sunday.
“Our economy is now recovering, but it’s a long, slow recovery, still painful for those unemployed or underemployed. It will probably take another three or four years for the damage done by the financial meltdown – liken it to a heart attack – to heal. But beyond that, the picture is bright. The smartest people I know who study the economy say just as previous crises have been cathartic, or cleansing, in the long run, so is this one.”
Woodruff has covered news and politics on a national level for more than three decades, including CNN, NBC and PBS, where she is senior correspondent and co-anchor of “The PBS NewsHour.”
She encouraged the graduates to be resourceful. Recounting how she was once removed as an anchor early in her career, she also told the graduates to be prepared to fail along the way.
“What matters is not that you fail, but how you respond,” said Woodruff, who received an honorary doctor of humane letters. “Hate failure, and then pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go on your journey to making a difference.”
Woodruff’s appearance at Union capped an academic year that featured programs focusing on women and their unique contributions to society during the College’s celebration of its 40th anniversary of co-education.
She cited the recent accomplishments of a number of women in a variety of fields. Still, Woodruff cautioned that “only 16 percent of the U.S. Congress, 15 percent of corporate America’s senior office holders and 24 percent of full professors” are women.
For the full text of Woodruff’s remarks, click here.
The College also awarded an honorary doctor of letters to poet Marvin Bell. He was nominated by Jordan Smith, professor of English. Bell was Smith’s thesis adviser at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, where Bell was the Flannery O’Connor Professor of Letters until his retirement in 2005.
In his charge to the graduates, President Stephen C. Ainlay enumerated an impressive list of academic, athletic and service accomplishments achieved by members of the class. He cited winners of Fulbright Fellowships and other prestigious awards, as well as students who traveled to Ghana to build libraries and to Ethiopia to bring clean water. He also celebrated the senior members of the men’s hockey and lacrosse teams who qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time in the school’s history.
“Because of all this, in you I have great faith; in you I have great hope,” Ainlay told the class.
For the full text of Ainlay’s remarks, click here.
Student speaker Andrew N.T. Churchill reminded his classmates of how they graced the campus with “our energy and enthusiasm, that we have awakened it with our dreams.”
Now that their journey at Union is complete, Churchill, a political science and French major from Oceanside, N.Y, wondered what’s next in store for the Class of 2011.
“Will we give a voice to the silenced?” he asked. “Will we share our stories with the world? Will we lift others up with our strength? And will we decide, at last, to cast away all our fears and all of our doubts, and fully embrace the lives that we are truly meant to lead?”
For the full text of Churchill’s remarks, click here.
Class valedictorian was Caroline M. Tulp, a political science major from Acton, Mass. Churchill was also salutatorian. Click here to learn more about their accomplishments.
For a list of the Class of 2011, click here.
For a list of previous Commencement speakers, click here.
Among the 520 members of the Class of 2011 were Union’s first graduates of the bioengineering program. Alexa Hebb, Kristin Kennedy, Kathleen McLean, Marc Nash and Anthony Cassese were juniors when the College started a new bioengineering major in 2009-10. To learn more, click here.
To learn about the nine graduates who will travel the globe as Minerva Fellows, click here.