CLINTON: Our Common Humanity

During the 192nd Commencement of Hobart College and the 106th Commencement of William Smith College, President Bill Clinton encouraged graduates to “relish our differences.”

“As long as we believe our common humanity is most important, as long as we understand that diverse groups make better decisions than homogenous ones or lone geniuses, as long as we realize the great thing about life is not final victories and the great tragedy is not final defeats—there aren’t any final victories or final defeats…but a life of permanent possibility,” he said.

After exploring the merits of inclusion and of difference as a point of unity rather than division, Clinton concluded with a charge to the audience to “every single day…work to expand the definition of ‘us’ and shrink the definition of ‘them.’”

During the Commencement ceremony, which drew a record audience of more than 7,500 people to campus and more than 400,000 viewers online, 526 Hobart and William Smith undergraduates and eight master’s candidates were awarded degrees. The Colleges also awarded honorary degrees to Clinton; founder and president of the Posse Foundation Deborah Bial L.H.D. ’17; Mary Herlihy Gearan L.H.D. ’17; and HWS President Mark D. Gearan L.H.D. ’17.

In an unprecedented decision, the HWS Board of Trustees unanimously named President Gearan as President Emeritus of the Colleges, the first time in HWS history that the Board has bestowed the honor.

“Under your remarkable tenure as president, our beloved Colleges have seen notable growth and success on all fronts. The Board of Trustees is grateful for your distinguished service and for enriching the lives of those you served,” said Board Chair Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68 at the ceremony.

In his valedictory address, the final of his tenure as HWS president, Gearan called upon the Classes of 2017, “to fulfill the mission of Hobart and William Smith Colleges: lead a life of consequence. How and where you do that, of course, is a highly individualized conclusion. But all of you have had the experiences here – and exposure to the values of Hobart and William Smith that we hope you will carry with you: a commitment to service, citizenship and global understanding; an appreciation of the importance of difference and inclusion; a responsibility for the stewardship of the environment and a lifelong passion for learning. All of those values will assist you on your journey.”

As part of the opening ceremony, Patrisha A. Blue ’77 sang a powerful rendition of the national anthem and in annual fashion, Bozzuto presented the Touching the Future awards, which celebrate and honor educators from elementary, middle and high school who have had an impact on our current graduates. This year, the Colleges recognized Carlos Mendez, a music teacher and coordinator of music for the Fayetteville-Manlius School District, and Anggela Sanchez, a bilingual studies teacher at the School of Leadership Development in the Bronx. Mendez was nominated by Christopher Demas ’17, and Sanchez was nominated by Jerlin Garo ’17. This year’s student speakers were Sydney Gomez ’17 and Matthew Skinner ’17.



PHOTOS: Top left - President Bill Clinton and Mary Herlihy Gearan share congratulations before receiving their honorary degrees. Top right - In the traditional Commencement procession, the Classes of 2017 walk across campus to receive their degrees on the Quad. Bottom left - President Bill Clinton greets Assistant Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development Sophie Riskie ’07, Hobart Squash Head Coach Tim Riskie and their son Benjamin before the ceremony. Bottom right - During the ceremony, Gearan conferred an honorary degree to Deborah Bial, an education strategist and the founder of the Posse Foundation, one of the most successful college access programs across the country. The occasion coincided with the graduation of the first Posse scholars from HWS.


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.