A Coxe Farewell

Life at Hobart and William Smith ends similarly to how it begins: shaking hands with President Gearan on the steps of the stately Coxe Hall. After leading a generation of alums through these crucial chapters, Gearan congratulated his 18th class during his final Commencement ceremony on May 14, 2017, during which President Bill Clinton delivered the Commencement Address.

The What
The tradition of commencement originated in medieval Europe when graduates would receive their degrees in a ceremony called inceptio, meaning “beginning” in Latin, a reference to the beginning of their lives as full scholars. The practice later adopted the French term commencement.

The celebration is both in honor of what one leaves behind and what lies ahead, a duality that President Mark D. Gearan raised during his Commencement Address in 2001: “As you drive out of Geneva, look at your passenger side mirror of your car. It says ‘Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.’ Well, so too for HWS; it will be closer than it appears for you in life. In fact, it will always be with you – in the academic preparation you have received, the friendships made and the memories of this wonderful place.”

The Why
“Because a day like today proves that wishes and dreams and prayers come true, that hard work pays off, and that all-nighters do, too. A day like today proves that your dreams can exceed even your wishes.”   – The late Gwen Ifill, L.H.D. ’01, during her 2001 Commencement Address

Words of Wisdom from HWS Commencement Speakers

“I hope you fail miserably. I hope you crash and burn. I hope you get fired. I hope someone breaks your heart in the most awful way. I hope you find yourself one day on the floor – metaphorically bloody, hopeless, sobbing over a dream that didn’t come true…Heroes are not born out of glory and success. Heroes can only come to life in the dark heart of failure.” –Brad Falchuk ’93, L.H.D. ’14

“Now is not the time to settle. In fact, I would say, your job right now is to dream big, extravagant, borderline unrealistic dreams.” –Savannah Guthrie L.H.D. ’12

"Well, thank God for dreamers, and for those who selflessly help others, those who stand up for what is right, even when it’s not easy. Especially when it’s not easy." –Bill Whitaker, Jr. ’73, L.H.D. ’97

“I mention that trademark Gearan kindness not just for the fond memory; his presence here, his leadership here, his emphasis on making Hobart and William Smith Colleges a community of civil discourse and public service is proof to me you already know the lessons that matter most.” –John King L.H.D. ’06

“You must use your skills, set your expectations high, be prepared to make some tough choices, and to shine some light into a few dark corners.” –Gwen Ifill L.H.D. ’01

“You’re going to do the great stuff—total confidence in that. You’re going to get beat up along the way—total confidence in that. But always remember, there is only one definition of a champion, only one, and the true champion is the one who gets up one more time than they’re knocked down.” –James Carville LL.D. ’13, P'17


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.