Commencement 2012


Cynthia L. Caird L.H.D. '12

May 12, 2012

Thank you, President Gearan for that wonderful introduction and thank you for your leadership at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Thank you also to the members of the Board of Trustees for bestowing on us this great honor. Jim and I are so deeply flattered and humbled to receive this honorary degree.

We are privileged to consider ourselves friends of the Colleges, of President Mark and Mary Gearan, Bob O'Connor, and so many members of the faculty and staff who always go out of their way to accommodate us and to make us feel so special – and to so many of the bright, enthusiastic students we have met.

It makes us proud to be involved with Hobart and William Smith where students embrace the education they receive and recognize it is as a key to success. Their education empowers them with tools they need to face the challenges of the future and this knowledge will have a long-lasting, positive result on the way they interact with our world because it provides an intellectual foundation and an ethical guide for a life of service, accomplishment and fulfillment.

And we certainly imagine the years at Hobart and William Smith are more – much more – than the pursuit of a degree. The experience here engages and challenges, both personally and intellectually. And students have the opportunity to interact with, come to understand and develop a deeper appreciation for those with whom they at first may imagine they have very little in common.

The ability to successfully and productively engage individuals of dissimilar backgrounds is, we believe, not just a skill, but a foundational quality – something that lives at the core of great people – and something students are challenged to develop.

I learned that during my life of travel. I found the most enlightening and stimulating experiences were communicating with people and formulating new ideas about the world.

For example, my family and I visited Cuba and we were on the last ship to leave just hours before the Batista regime fell to Fidel Castro. I traveled to China in 1983 just after government restrictions were eased and was able to interact with a people who had a strong curiosity about us as we had with them. I was invited by a young Masai tribesman to sit near the small brazier in his dung and mud hut in East Africa, and had a cup of tea in the modest home of a proud Nubian in Upper Egypt. And all these adventures changed me.

The environment at Hobart celebrates rather than just tolerates differences; in residential life, athletics, the arts, scholarship, research and service to the community. All are connected and essential parts of the collegiate experience – because they work in concert toward the education of the entire self. And they share a single, quite simple premise: be involved – with your intellectual life, your physical and spiritual self, your community and the larger world that you share. By truly engaging difference we transcend boundaries.

At HWS, the quality of the academic experience and the quality of the faculty are at the core of the learning experience.

Students benefit directly from their scholarly expertise and the faculty's profound commitment to teaching. My sweet cousin, Caley Goldblatt '12 is gradating tomorrow and is a perfect example of a William Smith student. We have enjoyed watching her mature and develop and are very impressed with her confidence and the clarity of her dreams for the future.

After Jim graduated in 1956, someone asked if he was in the top of his class; he said, "No. I was one of the students who made the top half possible!"

I am certain, knowing Jim as I do, that his education here was a key to his achievements. Jim's years at Hobart taught him how important his contributions and input would be when he went out in the world to pursue his passion, but he had to first find out what that might be!

Robert Kennedy wisely said that "only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."

I think Jim understood that as he was always unafraid to take a chance, so his curiosity brought him to San Francisco – driving cross country on 4 ½ of the six cylinders of his '49 Dodge.

His career objectives were constantly stifled until an excellent opportunity in sales arose. The owner of the company, a graduate of Georgetown, had heard that Jim had attended Hobart and was adamant that he had to have Jim on his team. He didn't want any school records (fortunately) or know anything more about him. He just had to have him! And this was the single most important stepping stone Jim made toward entering that industry, eventually starting his own company and finding huge success.

We are very proud of Caird Hall and the Caird Center for Sports and Recreation. The feedback we have received from coaches and students have made us aware of the dividends the Caird Center pays in recruiting the best athletic talent. We hear how students apply early because they are so eager to play at the Caird Center.

And how swollen with pride we were recently to have those cliff-hangers at the Caird Center. One between Ohio State and Hobart where we lost in a squeaker 10-9, and the other equally as closely contested with Syracuse, 13-12!

All Hobart and William Smith students are encouraged to formulate new ideas about the world and themselves, and inevitably, abandon old ones. As students are engaged in this adventure, each of them brings their unique intellect, curiosity and determination and are guided to use those attributes in the pursuit of their goals.

And the experience of Hobart and William Smith provides students with the prospect worthy of the promise made – and worth all that is invested in it.

And so we thank you again for this remarkable tribute and for the opportunity for us to contribute to your goal of making students' experience one of meaning and significance.

Thank you again.