Amherst Magazine

11 Things We Loved About Commencement 2010

1. The finally-well-rested thesis-writers. Was it our imagination, or did these 189 graduating seniors, pale from so many sleepless nights in the lab or at the library, seem especially exuberant in their caps and gowns? Which brings us to...

2. Invisibility cloaks and revising the U.S. Constitution. A new Law & Order/ Harry Potter crossover? Nope, just a couple of thesis topics from the Class of 2010.

3. A new kind of bottle cap. Forget polyester blends. The caps and gowns worn by this year’s graduates were made of 100 percent certified recycled post-consumer plastic—around 25 plastic bottles per gown.

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4. The silent H. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales may have worn an Amherst T-shirt to his speech in Cole Assembly Room, but from the way he pronounced the college’s name, we could tell he’s not a local. After the standing-room-only talk, an audience member approached and instructed him: the H is silent. (The Wikipedia entry for Amherst, Mass., says as much.) Wales seemed grateful for the lesson.

5. Greg Call’s voice mail. How does the dean of the faculty pronounce with such confidence, such mastery, the names of the graduates who walk across the stage? Seniors call his voice mail and state their names. At rehearsal, Call does a run-through, and those whose names he bungles form a line and coach him on pronun­ciation until he gets it right.

6. Good advice. “Maintain your capacity for indignation,” urged consumer advocate and honorary degree recipient Harvey Rosenfield ’74. Make sure that your work “is based on an understanding of the profound complexities of daily life,” said Zackie Achmat, another honorand.

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7. The Marine. On Commencement morning, the War Memorial provided the backdrop for Joe Black ’10 to be commissioned as a U.S. Marine officer. The ceremony drew the attention of early arrivals to the Quad.

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8. The county sheriff. Robert Garvey is always a crowd-pleaser at Commencement, where it’s his job to lead the procession. He wears a top hat and carries a halberd, a weapon popular in the 14th and 15th centuries. His thunderous voice opens and closes the ceremony.

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9. The senior speaker. When Maryam Khan ’10 came to Amherst from Pakistan, her father advised her to stay away from “senior boys after dark” and to use a planner. “For all those here who’ve loved us, supported us, fixed our overdraft fees, paid our parking tickets; who’ve let us go in the world to make our mistakes and major in subjects we shouldn’t have: don’t think we don’t need you now that we have graduated,” she said in her address.

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10. The baby. Michael White II ’10 was holding a well-dressed little boy as he walked across the stage to receive his diploma. It was his 1-year-old son, Michael White III, whom he brought on stage, he says, as “an expression of the fact that I’m doing this for more than just myself.”

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 11. The canes. In a tradition that dates back to the 1800s and was revived by the Class of 2003, each of this year’s 431 graduates received a wooden cane. The canes are meant as a metaphor for the college education: they will support the graduates throughout their lives. 

Commencement photos by Samuel Masinter '04 and Kate Berry '12