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Conn College grads told to never stop putting education into action

New London — Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron on Sunday told members of the Class of 2018, the college's centenary class, that — like the college's first students — they "seized the opportunity to think and do and lead."

In the words of the college's first president, Frederick H. Sykes, the soon-to-be-graduates used all they "had of brain and hand and heart," to put their liberal arts education into action. In doing so, they helped revitalize education on the campus.

“Class of 2018, you truly answered the call. And for that, I will always, always be grateful," added Bergeron, who began her first full year as president when the class started college. "So I have just one more thing to ask of you as you prepare to leave this place, and it is this: Never stop answering that call. Never stop putting your liberal arts education into action.”

Conn awarded bachelor of arts degrees to 424 graduates from 29 states and 13 countries who wore commemorative stoles over their black gowns to mark the college's 100th commencement.

Keynote Speaker Jazmine Hughes, a graduate of the college's Class of 2012 and an associate editor of The New York Times Magazine, told the graduates awaiting their diplomas that, like probably many of them, she struggled for a while with reconciling who she is with who she wanted to be. She said she wanted to be serious and have "gravitas and strength and wisdom like an old tree." While in her creative writing class at Connecticut College, she felt everyone around her was writing this "deeply-felt meditation on their family or the moon," and she was writing what she called "piles of jokes," mostly about herself.

Hughes recalled that she felt "corny and unserious" as if she didn't belong in the class until one day her professor turned to another student and said of Hughes' work: "That is such a tough way of writing. Don't you wish you could write like that?" The student nodded, and Hughes was thrilled.

"I learned that you can just be who you are, and we’re all the better for it," Hughes said of her time at Conn.

Hughes became the youngest person in the college's history to receive an honorary doctorate.

Senior Class Speaker Nayla Tohme, a psychology major with a concentration in cultural identity and a double minor in art and gender and women’s studies, reflected on her classmates' efforts to create change and address issues. She said the college gave them "the skills to think critically across disciplines" and "the tools to build communities that work together with integrity and compassion."

"We have the confidence to challenge what we cannot accept, and the creativity to imagine a different world," she said. "Conn has prepared us to be responsible citizens and the global leaders of tomorrow."

Graduate Micaela Nee of Hanover, Mass., won the Oakes and Louise Ames Prize "for most outstanding honors thesis," while graduate Lysandra Saldaña of Phoenix, Ariz., was awarded the Anna Lord Strauss Medal "for outstanding public or community service, including service to the College," according to the college's news release.

Kathryn Klein Briger, Class of 1963, received an honorary bachelor of humane letters, while Pamela D. Zilly, Class of 1975, who served 13 years on the board of trustees, was given the Connecticut College medal, the top honor from the college, according to the release.

Bergeron created a new "Connecticut College Victory Song," and an elm tree was planted last week overlooking Tempel Green in honor of the college's centenary class.


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