Amherst awarded 470 bachelors of arts degrees on May 24.
[Commencement] Charles Hamilton Houston, class of 1915, is widely recognized as the legal architect of themodern civil rights movement. He developed the strategy that led to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared racial segregation unconstitutional in public schools. But before that, Houston was the first African-American student to speak at Amherst’s commencement. A century after Houston’s graduation address, President Biddy Martin focused heavily on the civil rights leader in her 2015 commencement speech. She urged the 470 new Amherst graduates to follow Houston’s example and restore faith in our society’s institutions by remaking them. “If we are to ‘let America be America again,’ to invoke Langston Hughes, you will have to put your remarkable intelligence to work,”she said. “You will have to develop well informed points of view; you will have to acquire breadth not only of knowledge, but of perspective. You will have to find ways to engage others. And to all of those things you need to add grit, self awareness and respect for others, even adversaries.”She gave the graduates other advice, too: “Don’t sell intellectual work short. Don’t let a faux populism on the left or the right obscure the importance of what you have learned to do here—think critically, deeply, creatively, with joy in your own intellectual and artistic feats. ”Student speaker Katherine Ponds ’15 recounted the story of the Trojan hero Aeneas, who “sailed far and wide on at reacherous yet wondrous journey to fulfill his destiny and become the founder of Rome.” She said her class mates will hold fast to their memories of Amherst “as we go on to found our own little metaphorical Romes.” E.G.B.
During the commencement ceremony, Amherst awarded honorary doctorates to six people.
JIM ANSARA ’82 - Founder and chairman of Shawmut Design andConstruction. His many philanthropy projectsinclude starting a nonprofit that builds medicalfacilities in Haiti and in developing Africancountries.
ERIC CARLE - Author and illustrator of more than 70 children’sbooks, including, most famously, The Very HungryCaterpillar, which has sold more than38 million copies.
SONYA CLARK ’89 - A contemporary artist and educator known forher original use of common materials—includinghuman hair, combs and cloth—to address race,class and history.
ALICE RIVLIN - An economist who has served as foundingdirector of the Congressional Budget Office, vicechair of the Federal Reserve Board and directorof the White House Office of Management andBudget.
PARDIS SABETI - A computational geneticist who specializes ingenetic diversity and devising algorithms tolocate the occurrences of natural selection. Someof her discoveries relate to the evolution andspread of Ebola in West Africa.
PAUL SMITH ’76 - A partner at the law firm Jenner & Block, wherehe chairs the Appellate and Supreme CourtPractice. He has handled many cases involvingcivil rights and civil liberties and has argued 16times in the U.S. Supreme Court, including in thelandmark gay-rights case Lawrence v. Texas.
Medal for Eminent Service - LEO ARNABOLDI ’81
Honorary Marshal - SEAN M. CLANCY ’78
Obed Finch Slingerland Memorial Prize - SAMANTA ALANA ENGLISH ’15
Woods-Travis Prize - EILEEN LUCÍA TROCONIS GONZALEZ ’15
Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Awards, given to high school teachers nominated by members of the graduating class
BOB JONAS - (Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston)
LINDA MAIER - (Emma Willard School, Troy, N.Y.)
STEVE SCHMIDT - (Lowell High School,San Francisco)
Facts About the Grads
27 Countries represented by the class of 2015 (including
Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Norway, Romania and Zambia
185 Senior theses completed
Most Declared Majors
Five College Classes
The graduates took 13,867 courses at Amherst,
423 at UMass, 98 at Smith, 85 at Mount Holyoke
and 75 at Hampshire.
Some of their New Job Titles
- Data scientist, Facebook
- Clinical research assistant, Beth Israel Deaconess
- Research Center
- Teacher, City Year
- Investment banking analyst, Credit Suisse
- Utilities locator, Summit Utilities Services
- Editorial intern, The Nation
- Legal assistant/paralegal, U.S. Department of Justice