Potash Hill

2015 Undergraduate Commencement

Courtney Varga collects dandelions. Photos by Jeff WoodwardOn a beautiful summer morning, with the lilacs and apples in full bloom, Marlboro College faculty, family, and friends gathered to celebrate the graduation of 49 students in Persons Auditorium. Marlboro’s undergraduate class of 2015 was regaled by Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, in her last official role as Marlboro president, and with a moving speech about solitude by senior speaker Maya Rohr. The commencement address from U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy gave an insider’s look at the patient diplomacy that has led to a softening of sanctions against Cuba, with important lessons for the graduates about how to make a difference in the world. Honorary degrees were conferred upon Senator Leahy; his wife, Marcelle Pomerleau Leahy; and longtime Marlboro trustee Ted Wendell. The ceremony closed with a valediction by Marlboro’s own religion professor, Amer Latif.

From President Ellen McCulloch-Lovell’s remarks

When employers are asked what they seek in graduates, they list: critical thinking; creative problem solving; expressing ideas clearly and convincingly; working in teams; understanding the historical and cultural context of one’s work. These are called the “soft skills” of a liberal education. At Marlboro, we seek to synthesize them with the “hard skills” of math and science. We want biologists, physicists, and computer programmers who can design our futures with the insights and imagination of the humanities and the arts…. Tell me, what is “soft” about knowing how to read deeply, listen attentively, speak compellingly, take responsibility, think objectively, and keep on learning?

From Maya Rohr’s senior address
Erika Klemperer, Jacob Morely, Maia Talbot Holloway, and Rosie Kahan make good use of them.I’ve been more imperfect at Marlboro than ever before, but that is because I have been forced to confront my inherent flaws here. They have come to the surface— all my demons and weird, wormy bits. That’s what happens in a community this small, this intense, and this intuitive: we demand so much from one another that we must expend every single part of ourselves in order to function. My point is that frank, honest critique of ourselves is essential to our survival. For all its shortcomings, all the troubles that come along with living in a small, confined space with lots of other opinionated, imperfect people, Marlboro is a good place to talk with those we might totally disregard out in the real world. I have tried to live up to that, and I’ve failed most of the time. But I’m certainly more tolerant and a little braver than I ever was before.

From Senator Patrick Leahy’s address
Big changes require a collective effort. No single person, none of us individually, not even the president, could have single-handedly achieved this result in Cuba. If you want to achieve results, whether for your community, or your college, or your office, work together with others…. The solutions to very few problems are black or white. Sure, the Cuba trade embargo has been an abysmal failure. But no, it is not the cause of most of Cuba’s problems—they were, after all, trading with other countries. It actually helped keep a repressive regime in power. So, you use the tools of critical thinking you acquired at this school to differentiate fact from fiction, and political correctness from reality. You were taught to think here—not just learn, but to think. Oh, lord, I wish more people were.

From the valediction by Amer Latif
Aidan Keeva ponders the future.This world is a play of opposites.
Outside, day runs after night and night after day.
The seasons—winter, spring, summer, fall—chase each other.
At the ocean, the tide goes in and the tide goes out.
Inside, our hearts expand and contract.
Our hands clench and unclench;
If they remained always clenched, they would be paralyzed.
Deeper, inside our selves,
Joy walks behind sorrow,
Clarity follows confusion,
Calm is at the heels of agitation,
Communion marches behind alienation.
“Reality,” says Rumi, “turns you from one feeling to another
And teaches by means of opposites,
So that you will have two wings to fly, not one.”

Find full transcripts of addresses, citations, academic prizes, and Plans of Concentration, as well as photos and videos, on the website.