Commencement for Class of 2011 Held May 7
More than 500 students graduated as part of the Class of 2011, whose commencement exercises were held Saturday, May 7, on the lawn of King Hall.
Invited speaker Susanna Paisley ’91, director of development for the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) in England, recalled her own graduation from Guilford 20 years ago. Paisley’s talk, entitled “The Birds and the Bees,” wove accounts of conservation successes and challenges together with her own “recipe for success.”
“[The] final ingredient in my personal recipe…is a tendency to develop huge and passionate enthusiasms of a very diverse nature and to make connections between them,” Paisley said. “I would certainly never have had the courage to become a biologist without Lynn Moseley, and without Guilford’s wonderful broad interdisciplinary focus, I’d never have branched so far out from this discipline either.”
Paisley concluded her remarks by reminding graduates of Guilford’s recently completed 2010-11 green & beyond theme year focused on sustainability. She spoke of monarch butterflies, whose populations are declining because of difficulty finding food during their annual migration.
“But the real reason I wanted to mention monarch butterflies is an amazing feature of their natural history,” Paisley said. “…Without a guide and never having been there before, they navigate by ultraviolet light and scent. They fly 3,000 miles, clear across North America to quite literally save their species.
“I sincerely believe that you, the Guilford College Class of 2011, graduating this beautiful morning at the culmination of this Green and Beyond Year of Sustainability, you can be the Methuselah generation. You can achieve truly extraordinary things. Forget cynicism. You can astound yourselves. So get out there. Spread your wings. And follow your nose.”
Student speakers Nicole Cornett Arnold ’11 and Daniel W.T. Hood ’11 both addressed the importance of community in developing ones’ passions and achieving goals.
Arnold spoke of how other adult students encouraged her, inspiring her to develop the Friend to Friend mentoring program and leading to her job as a student success counselor in the Center for Continuing education. “I have seen the little mentoring program become a big mentoring family. I have been blessed these past few years to stand cheering on those who have had this day before me and I know without a doubt that many of them stand back there in that crowd cheering me and you on as we graduate today,” she said.
“We have spent four or more years here wrestling also with the things that divide us, and we have been divided,” Hood said. “In our time here, we have often segregated ourselves between athlete and non-athlete, between adult and traditional students, between psychology majors and history majors and chemistry majors—and the list goes on. But here, today, we are united.
“I’m not here to tell you that we’ll escape getting our butts kicked, but Guilford has taught us the skills we need to overcome any of the challenges the world could throw at us. We may be wounded, but we will not be destroyed. We have learned the complexity of working toward community. We have learned to be passionate about things that don’t come easily to us. We have even learned that struggle is necessary.”
In his charge to the class, President Kent Chabotar spoke about excellence, one of the College’s seven core values, saying that “there is no conflict between excellence and the Quaker testimony of equality.” The world will rely on the excellence of today’s graduates to solve problems such as poverty, environmental degradation, international conflict and budget deficits, Chabotar said.
“It has been said that excellence can be won if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible,” Chabotar said. “Guilfordians do not blow our own horns often or loudly enough about how excellent we are. Maybe it’s academic shyness or Quaker humility. But I hope the Class of 2011 knows that you have earned the right to brag a little. You are the change this nation needs. You will make the world a better and gentler place.”
Students who completed degree requirements in summer and fall 2010 and spring 2011 were included in the commencement exercises of the College’s 174th academic year.
Photos from commencement are on the College’s Facebook page.