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New London - When Brenner Green arrived at Connecticut College four years ago, he was a son, a brother, a friend, a teammate, a classmate and a house fellow.
"Connecticut College has made me realize I am so much more,'' the senior class speaker told his more than 430 classmates who received their diplomas Sunday during the college's 94th commencement ceremony.
A member of the cross-country and track teams who logged as many as 14,000 miles during his college career, Green remembered telling his freshmen teammates that he was gay. He asked them to accept him, although at the time, he said, he didn't really know who he was.
"When I came to college I only knew how to be gay from Elton John and Richard Simmons,'' he said, adding that he could sing along to "Tiny Dancer" and may have exercised in a pair of short-shorts, à la Simmons.
Green said his teammates respected him for "coming out" and included him at gatherings, events and in conversations. "They made me comfortable as a gay athlete,'' he said.
During his freshman year, Green was featured in "Out for the Long Run," a documentary about openly gay high school and college athletes.
Green, who joined Teach for America and will be teaching special education in Las Vegas in the fall, said he has many more miles to run and more chapters to tell in his life story.
"But this is my story,'' he concluded. "All of you have unique stories, too. I won't stop running and I hope your journey will bring you much satisfaction and enjoyment."
At the beginning of Sunday's ceremony, seniors marched down the middle of Jean C. Tempel Green and two hours later walked back through a gathering of admiring family and friends as graduates of the Class of 2012.
Louis B. Susman, the U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James in London and the father of 1984 graduate Sally Susman, delivered the keynote address. He also received an honorary doctorate in humane letters.
Susman told the students, along with hundreds of guests who gathered on the green in white folding chairs under sunny skies, not to be too anxious about job prospects. "You have received the best education in the country,'' he told the graduates, encouraging them to maintain a curiosity for learning, get involved in local and global issues and keep an open mind as they navigate the rest of their lives.
"We need your ideas, your energy, your enthusiasm and your passion,'' Susman said. "We can no longer isolate ourselves from the events around the world. … Your challenge is to build a future worthy of the values of America."
Susman practiced law for 27 years in St. Louis before becoming an investment banker at Salomon Brothers, where he worked with Connecticut College President Leo I. Higdon Jr. in the early 1980s. President Barack Obama nominated Susman to be U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom in 2009.
Conn senior Jazmin Long was awarded the Anna Lord Strauss Medal for her extensive work in community service, which included volunteering at the Homeless Hospitality Center in New London and tutoring New London elementary and middle school students.
David Liakos received the Oakes and Louise Ames Prize for his senior honors thesis "Overcoming Transcendence: Charles Taylor and Nihilism.''
"It's a rare student who can conceive of a project of this type,'' said his thesis adviser, philosophy Professor Larry Vogel. "Even fewer are able to pull if off. David has done both."
Barbara Kohn, class of 1972, was awarded the College Medal for her pioneering career in banking.
East Lyme: Wade Edward Berry
Lebanon: Kelly Elizabeth Parlin
Lisbon: Brenner Adam Green
New London: Crystal Garcia, Amy Anders Hannum, Max Lee Kelly, Emily Rose Wilcox
Old Lyme: Meghan Christina McLean, Alison L. McPherson
Old Saybrook: Jessica Rachel Berman, Emily Michele Pfannenstiel
Stonington: Alexandra Anna Avalone
Ledyard: Jillian Claire Marshall