May 23, 2004
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.-Under cloudy skies that cleared as the graduates marched off the Main Quadrangle, 428 men and women received bachelor of arts degrees today at Amherst College. In his traditional address Amherst President Anthony W. Marx, who took office last July, criticized American higher education for its lack of inclusion. "Though we believe we are a society of educational venture capitalists, we are instead still investing far more in "blue chip" students than in "start-ups." We should know better."
Matthew M. Murumba '04 from Brooklyn, N.Y offered a humorous explication of three classic texts: "Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple," "Jack and Jill" and "The Cat and the Fiddle." He concluded, "we suffer from an embarrassment of riches. Giving back to others is not a duty, but the highest form of enlightened self interest."
Seven honorary degrees were also awarded at the ceremony: to Rafael Campo '87, poet and physician; Albert O. Hirschman, political economist; Donald Mc. Routh '58, former dean of financial aid at Amherst and at Yale University; Kate Seelye '84, broadcast journalist; Theda Skocpol, sociologist and political scientist; Robert Trivers, sociobiologist; and Jeffrey Wright '87, stage and screen actor. The college also honored John S. Middleton '77 with the Medal for Eminent Service.
At Senior Class Exercises on the quadrangle yesterday, Saturday, May 22, Kate Seelye, an NPR Middle East correspondent, filmmaker and accomplished Arabist, came from her residence in Beirut, Lebanon, to tell the Class of 2004 that "even though you may not be thinking of the world, the world has been thinking of you." Chosen by the graduates to speak, Seelye, a 1984 graduate of Amherst, hoped that the new graduates' "greater sense of worldliness" might help "bridge the gulf of incomprehensibility between the United States and the Arab world."
Four graduating seniors also addressed their class Saturday. Dipayan Gupta from New Delhi offered humorous remarks about his tone-deaf attempts to find a place at "the singing college." Annie MacRae from New York City compared her college career to decorating her dorm room, "and just when we have accumulated enough to cover all the walls, we have to tear it all down." Lincoln Mayer, from Alexandria, Va., concluded a witty talk with the wry observation that "if we don't change society, society will change us." Brian Carlyle Stout, from Ashland, Ore. recounted the colorful tale of a keg party in the basement of the Robert Frost Library to celebrate the poet's birthday.
The Association of Amherst Students gave the Distinguished Teaching Award to John Servos, the Anson D. Morse Professor of History.
The college also awarded student prizes. The Thomas H. Wyman 1951 Medal, presented for the first time this year, was established by Wyman's classmates and family to commemorate his remarkable life achievements and philanthropy to his beloved Amherst. A leadership gift to the annual fund was made in the name of Luke Swarthout of New York City.
The Howard Hill Mossman Trophy, awarded annually to the member of the senior class, who has brought, during his or her four years at Amherst, the greatest honor in athletics to his or her alma mater, the word "honor" to be interpreted as relating both to achievement and to sportsmanship, was given to Paul Whiting of Mission Viejo, Calif.
The Psi Upsilon Prize was established by the Gamma Chapter of Psi Upsilon in 1941 on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Chapter. The prize also was awarded to Paul Whiting, the member of the graduating class considered preeminent in scholarship, leadership, athletics and character.
The Obed Finch Slingerland Memorial Prize, given by the trustees of the college to a member of the senior class, who has shown by his or her own determination and accomplishment the greatest appreciation of and desire for a college education, was awarded to Valentin Burlacu of Bucharest and Renata Robinson of Jamaica, N.Y.
The Woods-Travis Prize, an annual gift in memory of Josiah B. Woods of Enfield and Charles B. Travis of the Class of 1864, is awarded for outstanding excellence in culture and faithfulness to duty as a scholar. It went to Katherine Mooney of River Ridge, La.
The college presented Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Awards on behalf of graduating seniors to three secondary school teachers: Richard Delgado, a chemistry and general science teacher from Vallejo High School in Vallejo, Calif., nominated by Erin Kirkham '04; Nydia Benitez-Nee, a counselor at Newburgh Free Academy in Newburgh, N.Y., nominated by Katyuska Eibenstiner '04; and David Taylor, a science teacher at Triton Regional High School in Byfield, Mass., nominated by Jason Cavatorta '04.
Ten current and former employees of Amherst College were named honorary members of the Class of 2003: Diana Bujevic; Dave Cetto of Amherst, Mass., a server in the dining hall; Tom Gerety of New York, the former president of the college; Samuel C. Haynes of Northampton, Mass., the director of the Campus Center and assistant dean of students; Donald Kells of Montague, Mass., the postmaster; Robert E. ("Gramps") Keyes of Amherst, Mass., a checker with dining services; Deborah C. Pelletier of Palmer, Mass., a depository associate in the Robert Frost Library; Jeanne E. Reinle of Northampton, Mass., the administrative assistant in the Economics Department.; Jason D. Sutherland, a campus police officer; and Angelo T. Vassallo of South Hadley, Mass., a custodian.