Under rain ponchos and umbrellas and brimming with pride and tears, more than 4,000 HWS community members gathered on May 18, 2008, on the Quad to celebrate the Classes of 2008. Giving this year's Commencement Address, CBS News Correspondent William T. Whitaker Jr. '73, L.H.D. '97 offered his wisdom and experiences to the graduating Classes.
"I have delivered news from around the world, reporting on Tiananmen Square, the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina, and I can't deny that it is a crazy, mixed-up world into which you go," said Whitaker. "But I have also witnessed ordinary people doing extraordinary things. So, please, follow in all of these ordinary people's extraordinary footsteps as you go forth and help make this world a better place."
During his Valedictory Address, President Mark D. Gearan encouraged graduates to realize the power of their ideas. "Whether it is big and complex or deceptively simple—there is immense potential in the power of an idea's effort and implementation," Gearan said. "Listening to the ideas of Congressman John Lewis during this year's Convocation and Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai's ideas during her recent President's Forum Lecture, we know how one person's idea can become a project or a movement that impacts the world."
"I encourage you all to take note of an idea's power and to transform the world, or part of it, with a project, a movement, an idea of your own," Gearan said at the conclusion of his speech.
Felipe Estefan '08 and Alyssa McDermott '08 gave the Senior Speeches, each offering the graduates an important lesson. Estefan emphasized the strong sense of community at the Colleges, telling his fellow graduates that they are and forever will be, at their core, Hobart and William Smith. McDermott encouraged the Classes of 2008 to go out into the world without fear.
Provost and Dean of the Faculty Teresa Amott presented the honorary degrees to William Smith Dean Debra K. DeMeis P '06, who has loyally served Hobart and William Smith as both professor of psychology and dean for 31 years; Trustee Katherine D. Elliott '66, whose passion and generosity has inspired countless HWS students; and Trustee Charles H. Salisbury Jr. '63, P' 94, whose tireless and enduring dedication to Hobart and William Smith has challenged and inspired the HWS community.
During the ceremony, Hobart Dean Eugen Baer and William Smith Dean Debra DeMeis also presented 183 Hobart seniors and 221 William Smith seniors with bachelor's degrees. Provost Teresa Amott awarded eight Master of Arts in Teaching degrees.