Convocation honors Bicentennial Medalists, Class of 2015

The Class of 2015 marches toward Chapin Hall during the annual Convocation ceremony. Jennifer Mastranni/Contributing Photographer
The Class of 2015 marches toward Chapin Hall during the annual Convocation ceremony. Jennifer Mastranni/Contributing Photographer

The College celebrated the Class of 2015 and six alumni who were awarded Bicentennial Medals at Convocation last Saturday.

The Class of 2015 for the College, alongside the Class of 2015 for the graduate program at the Center for Development Economics and the Class of 2015 for the graduate program in art history, marched through campus on a beautiful morning. Faculty and staff, community members, parents and students gathered outside to celebrate the senior class and its many accomplishments, as well as the six individuals who received Bicentennial Medals from the College.

The ceremony began with an invocation given by Chaplain to the College, Rick Spalding. His moving words set an inspiring tone that lasted throughout the day. President Falk followed the chaplain’s benediction and reminded the Class of 2015 about the sense of community and the thirst for knowledge that the College upholds. Falk then introduced mezzo-soprano Elaina Pullano ’15, clarinetist Ethan Borre ’15 and pianist Tricia Ho ’16 to the stage to provide the musical interlude for this year’s Convocation. The trio put on a soothing rendition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Parto, parto, ma tu ben mio,” which brought the audience to a roaring applause by the end of the performance.

Dean Bolton then introduced the undergraduates who received the distinction of Phi Beta Kappa. The College recognized these 25 individuals, who ranked in the highest five percent of the class, for their academic achievements and dedication. Dean Bolton also presented The Grosvenor Cup Award to Kirby Neuner ’15 for his commitment to bettering the college community and his work in public health. College Council Co-Presidents Emily Dzieciatko ’15 and Erica Moszkowski ’15 also took the stage to welcome in the Class of 2015 into the new academic year with an amusing and stimulating speech that compared the experiences of the senior class to those of the Class of 1815 and the Class of 1915.

Falk then introduced the recipients of the Bicentennial Medals. This year, the College awarded medals to alumni for their accomplishments in fields related to the College’s new Book Unbound initiative. The individuals recognized were: David Spadafora ’72, president and librarian of the Newberry Library; Steven Rothstein ’78, former president of the Perkins School for the Blind; Kenard Gibbs ’86, former group publisher of magazines Ebony and Jet; Ethan Zuckerman ’93, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT; sogwriter for Disney’s “Frozen,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez ‘94, and fiction editor of the Post Road and pseudonymous author of 11 young adult novels, Mary Cotton ‘01.

The College recognized these medalists for their work in promoting the spread of the written word and its ability to create connections throughout the globe.

Zuckerman was chosen to represent the medalists with an address to the senior class titled “Bibliolarceny and the Size of the Universe.” In it, he focused on the infamous myth of how Amherst College was established by the theft of 700 of the College’s volumes and why the students of the College were so fixated on this tall tale.

He used this story as an example of how society values books and the vast amount of knowledge they provide, but warned how the “avalanche of information” available today can deter individuals from venturing out of their intellectual comfort zones.

Zuckerman reminisced about his past and how participating in something out of his comfort zone, in his case Kusika, the African dance group on campus, broadened his horizons and shaped his path through the world.

Zuckerman concluded by giving advice to the senior class as to how they should value those around them for the information and experiences they have to offer.

“The next time you visit Sawyer Library, I’d ask you to think about the ways in which it’s carefully curated, designed to make it possible to get lost productively, to discover something unexpected but wonderful. Possibly the only thing at Williams more carefully curated is the class you are a part of,” Zuckerman said.