May 22, 2005
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—Under cool damp skies on the quadrangle, 409 men and women received bachelor of arts degrees today at Amherst College. In his traditional address Amherst President Anthony W. Marx spoke about a founder of the college, Noah Webster. The lexicographer Webster's "aim was always clear: Terras Irradient; to illuminate the world; not the more constrained Communitas irradient, which arguably would have been more 'realistic.' Graduates, how often you will be told in coming years to be 'realistic.' I hope you are told this; it will be a sign you are pursuing your ideals."
John D. Pourciau, of Baton Rouge, La., chosen by his classmates to speak at their commencement, predicted that they would number both "future CEOs—and the future federal prosecutors who will indict them."
Seven honorary degrees were also awarded at the ceremony to: Kazuo Asakai '67, the Japanese ambassador to the European Union; Shigeru Ban, an architect known for his use of non-traditional building materials; Natalie Zemon Davis, ground-breaking historian and author of The Return of Martin Guerre; Paul E. Farmer, physician, medical anthropologist and founder of Partners in Health; Senator John Glenn, former American fighter pilot, astronaut and politician; Amy Rosenzweig '88, biochemist and winner of a MacArthur "genius" grant; Robert Stone, novelist and former visiting writer at Amherst; and William Julius Wilson, sociologist of urban poverty. The college also honored Stephen R. Pflaum '62 of Minneapolis, Minn., with the Medal for Eminent Service.
At Senior Class Exercises on the quadrangle yesterday, Saturday, May 21, Paul E. Farmer, physician, medical anthropologist and founder of Partners in Health, reminded the Class of 2004 at Amherst College that "lots of people have never heard of Lord Jeffery Amherst" at Senior Class Exercises on the main quadrangle on Saturday, May 21. "Even World War II is ancient history to many, and this forgetting is a serious problem in this country. You will have to a better job than our generation, and a better job than the generation of Lord Jeff."
Three graduating seniors also addressed their class Saturday. Ali Hassan of Falls Church, Va., made a humorous, but learned, talk about the importance of Amherst's open curriculum and the liberal arts, drawing on Pope, Montaigne and Shakespeare. Gabriel Mattera of University Heights, Ohio recalled a letter he received at the start of his career at Amherst from his grandfather in Argentina, who wrote, "Stay strong, don't get soft and keep moving forward." Kate Stayman-London of Montclair, N.J. told her class that "as we figured out together that it was going to be okay" on Sept. 11, 2001, their generation must help each other to overcome the "savage status quo" of injustice and famine in the world.
The Association of Amherst Students gave the Distinguished Teaching Award to Gordon Levin the Dwight Morrow Professor of History an American Studies, who has taught at Amherst since 1965.
The college also awarded student prizes. The Thomas H. Wyman 1951 Medal 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 Ryan Park of Eagan, Minn.
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 Carter B. Hamill of Richmond, Va., and Ashley Harmeling of North Reading, Mass.
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 Ashley Harmeling, 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 members of the senior class, who have shown by their own determination and accomplishment the greatest appreciation of and desire for a college education, was awarded to Katherine Duke of Sugarloaf, N.Y, and Christian Sanchez of North Hollywood, Calif.
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 Herrick Fisher of Lexington, Mass.
The college presented Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Awards on behalf of graduating seniors to five secondary school teachers: Robert Arrigo, a mathematics teacher from Scarsdale (N.Y.) High School, nominated by Armit Amirapu '05; William Curtis, a Latin teacher at Camden Hills Regional High School (Rockport, Maine), nominated by Rebecca Stein '05; John and Carol Longhenry, teachers of English and history from Auburn High School (Rockford, Ill.), nominated by Max Rettig '05; and John Stephens '56, a history teacher at the University School of Milwaukee (River Hills, Wisc.), nominated by Jennifer Wertheimer '05.
Ten current and former employees of Amherst College were named honorary members of the Class of 2005: Dee Brace of Amherst, Mass., the academic department coordinator in the philosophy department; Dave Cetto of Amherst, Mass., a server in the dining hall; Tom Gerety of New York, the former president of the college ; Donald Kells of Montague, Mass., the postmaster; John Kunhardt of Shutesbury, Mass., the media coordinator in the media center; James Maraniss of Amherst, Mass., a professor of Spanish; Alexander Mokrezecki of Hadley, Mass., a caretaker of athletic facilities; Joseph Grygorcewicz of Hadley, Mass., a custodian in the social dorms. Two men who died this year, Antonio Benitez-Rojo, a professor of Spanish, and Robert E. ("Gramps") Keyes of Amherst, Mass., a checker with dining services, were made members of the class posthumously.