May 28, 2006
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—Under sparkling blue skies, Amherst College celebrated its 185th Commencement Exercises today. The college granted bachelor of arts degrees to 430 members of the Class of 2006 at Commencement Exercises at 10 a.m. in the Main Quadrangle. Amherst President Anthony W. Marx in his traditional address told the class, “when private pursuits become detached from public needs, everyone suffers,” and called on them to pursue “endless questioning,” despite “the immense suffering, of terrorism, tsunami and flood” they had known in their college years. Graduating senior Kit Wallach of Providence, R.I., chosen by her classmates to speak, expressed her belief, that education, “in the Quaker tradition, is a part of holding us in the light,” and called on her class to “assure access to that kind of education for everyone.”
Honorary degrees were also awarded at the ceremony today to Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams (in absentia), anti-smoking activist Alan M. Blum ’69, poet and translator David Ferry ’46, cable pioneer and former chair of the Amherst College Board of Trustees Amos B. Hostetter, Jr. ’58, Samantha Power, educational activist Wendy D. Puriefoy, physicist Myriam P. Sarachik and W. Richard West Jr., founding director of the National Museum of the American Indian.
The college also honored retiring professors: Mavis Campbell, professor of history; David Reck, professor of music and Asian languages and civilizations; and Lew Spratlan, the Peter R. Pouncey Professor of Music.
The college honored Henry B. Pearsall ’56 of Bellwood, Ill., with the Medal for Eminent Service. The honorary marshal was John E. Beerbower ’70.
In an outspokenly political address at Class Day ceremonies yesterday, Samantha Power, professor in practice of public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, told the Class of 2006 that “At a time when politics deals in distortions and half truths, truth is to be found in the liberal arts. There’s something afoot in this country and you are very much a part of it.”
Four graduating seniors also addressed their class Saturday. Issa Abdulcadir of Washington, D.C., urged his classmates, “regardless of where you end up, enjoy the ride.” Andre Kobayashi Deckrow of Kent, Wash., said that “the definition of Amherst College is not in the topography of the campus, but in the hearts of each of us.” Sarah K. Rothbard of Livingston, N.J., recalling that former college president Tom Gerety spoke about King Lear at her class’s first convocation at Amherst in 2002, said that, “like Cordelia, words today are inadequate to express my gratitude.” Aidan Sleeper of Mamaroneck, N.Y., roared the college motto, “Terras Irradient,” or “let them give light to the world.”
The Association of Amherst Students gave the Distinguished Teaching Award to Stephen George, the Manwell Family Professor in Life Sciences (Biology and Neuroscience), 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 Rania Arja of Fountain Valley, Calif.
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 John F. Bedford Jr. of Ridgewood, N.J.
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 was awarded to Adam Lewkowitz of Phoenix, Ariz., 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 Raul Altreche of Amherst, Mass.
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 Gordon Arlen of Evanston, Ill., and Sarang Gopalakrishnan of Mumbai, India.
The college presented Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Awards on behalf of graduating seniors to four secondary school teachers: John Benson, a math teacher from Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., nominated separately by three different students: Rachel Gilbert, Hilary Levinson and Christian McClellan, all of Evanston, Ill.; David Ely, a biology teacher from Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg, Vt., nominated by Carolyn Koulouris of Shelburne, Vt.; Elissa Jury, a science teacher from Rondout Valley High School in Accord, N.Y., nominated by graduating senior Jon Vosper of Kingston, N.Y.; and Robert Wilmoth, a history teacher from Elkins High School in Elkins, W.V., nominated by Aaron Hall of Montrose, W.V.
Ten people, including current and retiring employees of Amherst College were named honorary members of the Class of 2006: Anthony “Tone” Esposito (Shelburne, Mass.), a server at Schwemm’s Gourmet Coffee House); Marie Fowler (Belchertown, Mass.), an assistant in the registrar’s office; Zudo Jusufovich (Amherst, Mass.), a custodian; Donald Kells (Montague, Mass.), the college postmaster; Doris Mason (Florence, Mass.), a checker at Valentine Dining hall; Onawumi Jean Moss (Amherst, Mass.), retiring as associate dean of students; Greg Murphy, a Tulane University student who was a visiting student at Amherst last fall; Zaweeda Sahabdeen (Amherst, Mass.), a checker at Valentine Dining Hall; The Rev. Paul Sorrentino (South Deerfield, Mass.), the coordinator for religious life; and Lew Spratlan (Amherst, Mass.), retiring as the Peter R. Pouncey Professor of Music.
Find photos, audio and text of speeches of the commencement 2006.