How to Be Happy After College

By Caroline Jenkins Hanna

[Speeches] In her commencement address President Biddy Martin exhorted the 464 members of the Class of 2013 to “hold to your desire for poetry.”

The Commencement stage Photo by Rob Mattson

“I came here,” she said, “for many of the same reasons you did: because of the strength of Amherst’s faculty, because of the talent of its students and the quality of its educational programs. … I came because of its commitment to a student body that reflects the rich diversity of the country, indeed the world. I came, as you did, to contribute in some way to making Amherst even better.”

Martin praised the seniors’ leadership and athletic prowess, as well as their “silliness and mischief, critical elements of a good life.” She read a passage from one of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, noting that humans need connections that are best expressed in poetry. The new graduates understand this, Martin said: One-third of them took a poetry course in college.

“I hope you take seriously not only what you build in the way of careers, friendships, relationships, homes,” Martin said, “but that you also … hold to your desire for thought. Hold to your desire for poetry.”

A relative adjusts an Amherst grad's cap. Photo by Rob Mattson

Earlier, the audience heard from elected class speaker Reilly Horan ’13, who talked about finding happiness in the “day-to-day grind” after graduating. “Most of the lessons I’ve learned about happiness at Amherst have to do with how I reconcile myself in a room full of others,” she said. “My big takeaway is this: While I’m dealing with my problems and insecurities and dreams, so are other people.”

Horan urged her classmates not to worry about how they are being evaluated by others, and to find a community: “The good stuff comes when you stop frantically looking around while you tread water and realize that you’re already buoyant and just start swimming.”

Graduates toss caps in the air. Photo by Jessica Mestre ’10

What’s Next

President Martin devoted part of her address to the future plans of the Class of 2013.

Graduates lined up in caps and gowns Photo by Megan Robertson ’15

The most common employment sectors for the new grads are financial services and education (in about the same ratio), sciences and consulting. “It did not surprise me,” Martin said, “to hear that almost 20 percent of your job titles include the word ‘analyst.’”

For those staying in school, 83 percent received one or more graduate-program acceptances. “Seventy-seven percent will attend their first-choice institution, and that’s based only on the information we have so far,” Martin said.

The most common degrees being pursued are the doctorate and the law degree. For those pursuing doctorates, the top three fields of study are in the sciences.

The 70-Year B.A.

By Caroline Jenkins Hanna

[Super Senior] Arthur J. Ourieff’s first semester at college began like any other. He studied hard, goofed off occasionally and went on a few dates.

But World War II shifted his plans. He never walked in a graduation ceremony, and he never received his diploma.

That changed on May 26, 2013, when, almost 70 years after he was supposed to graduate from Amherst, the 89-year-old Los Angeles resident was awarded an honorary bachelor’s degree alongside the Class of 2013.

Dr. Arthur J. Ourieff on the Commencement stage Dr. Arthur J. Ourieff
Photo by Jessica Mestre ’10

Ourieff was a 17-year-old Amherst freshman when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Accepted into a Navy program that would allow him to earn his B.A. in three years, get medical training and then serve in the military, he applied to Harvard Medical School in January 1943. A week later, he was accepted into a class that would start in three months.

He called Harvard and said it must have been a mistake: He’d not completed his premedical coursework. But the university could not guarantee him a place in a later class. Ourieff struck a deal with Amherst Professor Donald C. Gregg to condense a year’s worth of organic chemistry into 28 days.

“Professor Gregg and I met every day that month, and I was given access to the laboratories 24 hours a day,” Ourieff says. “In the evening of the last day of February, I took my final exam in organic chemistry and passed. In those days, as today, Amherst went all out to provide what students needed, and I am forever grateful.”

On April 1, 1943, Ourieff began Harvard Medical School as a uniformed Navy seaman—the youngest member of the class, he says. Three years later he received his M.D. and was promoted to lieutenant, junior grade, in the Navy Medical Corps. He treated soldiers suffering from symptoms of what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ourieff went on to a career as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst (he still practices part-time). Two years ago, while reading an Amherst magazine story about World War II vets receiving their long-overdue degrees, Ourieff got to thinking: Would Amherst do the same for him? Encouraged by his son, Bruce Ourieff ’73, he wrote to President Biddy Martin, who had the registrar confirm his good academic standing.

As Martin handed Ourieff his diploma on commencement day, the Class of 2013 gave him a standing ovation.

Special Honors

Amherst awarded seven honorary doctorates during the commencement ceremony.

Honorees in regalia
Freddie Bryant Hollister ’87 (stage name: Freddie Bryant) is a virtuosic guitarist and composer.

Madeline Janis ’82 cofounded the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, through which she led a successful campaign to pass one of the first living-wage laws in the United States.

Paul Rieckhoff ’98  is founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Barry Scheck cofounded the Innocence Project, which uses DNA testing to exonerate those wrongly convicted of crimes.

Jim Steinman ’69 is the composer, lyricist, producer and arranger behind such hit songs as “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” He is best known for writing “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” and other songs on Bat Out of Hell and “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” on Bat Out of Hell II.

Diana Chapman Walsh was president of Wellesley College from 1993 to 2007. She is a former Amherst trustee.

Robert Yarchoan ’71, P’07, P’13 is a member of the three-person National Cancer Institute team that developed the first effective therapies for HIV infection.

Kent W. Faerber '63 receives the Medal for Eminent Service from Biddy Martin. Kent W. Faerber '63 receives a Medal for Eminent Service.

The college awarded Medals for Eminent Service to Alan S. Bernstein ’63 and Kent W. Faerber ’63, as well as Swift Moore Teaching Awards to high school teachers Deborah Hepburn of Clinton (N.Y.) Senior High School; Larry Klein of Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, Calif.; and Fred Murphy of Frederick Douglass Academy in New York City.