On Saturday, the College celebrated the Class of 2016 and awarded Bicentennial Medals to five alumni at the annual Convocation ceremony in Thompson Memorial Chapel.
The Class of 2016 led the procession through the gates and across campus to the Chapel, followed by the graduating classes of the development economics and art history graduate programs. Members of the faculty, staff and community also attended the ceremony.
Chaplain to the College Rick Spalding opened the ceremony, encouraging the graduating classes to ponder the question “Where am I?” as they continue to make sense of their time on campus and consider goals beyond the Purple Valley. Next, President Falk addressed the Class of 2016, reminding them of the importance of face-to-face contact. He then introduced the quartet of cellist Patricia Ho ’16, soprano Claire Leyden ’16, tenor Daniel Potter ’16 and pianist Helen Tang ’16, who played a rendition of Mozart’s “S’io non moro a questi ascenti.”
The ceremony continued with Dean of the College Sarah Bolton’s introduction of the undergraduate members of Phi Beta Kappa, a group of 27 students recognized as the highest five percent of the class academically at the end of their junior year.
Vice President for Campus Life Steve Klass followed Bolton, presenting the Grosvenor Cup Award to Matt McNaughton ’16, which brought his classmates to a roaring applause. The award is given to the member of the graduating class thought to have done the most to better the College community. Klass explained that McNaughton’s kindness was mentioned frequently in his nominations by other students. College Council Co-Presidents Marcus Christian ’16 and Jesús Espinoza ’16 addressed their classmates next, congratulating them for making it this far in their college careers and encouraging them to take advantage of the year to come.
Finally, Falk conferred the Bicentennial Medals to this year’s five recipients who are recognized for their outstanding professional achievements in their lives after Williams. The alumni receiving the medals were Jonathan Fielding ’64, former director and health officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; Hernando Garzon ’84, director of Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Global Health Programs and medical director for Relief International; Michael Curtin ’86, chief executive officer of D.C. Central Kitchen; Claudia Rankine ’86, professor, playwright and lauded poet and Kristin Forbes ’92, professor of management and global economics at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England.
Curtin, selected to represent the five medalists, delivered a speech entitled “Finding your truth … and capturing the salamander.” Curtin recounted the story of how, thanks to a couple of College professors, he discovered his interests in his college major, religion, and concentration, Asian studies. He described the unpredictable career path he took upon graduation from the College, ultimately finding his calling at the D.C. Central Kitchen. He explained that one of his professors referred to finding the truth as catching a salamander with a spoon. He continued by recounting the life story of Dwayne, the manager of the soup kitchen where Curtin works, and sharing his realization that he had found his own “truth” – a meaningful purpose to which he dedicated his life.
“I hope that all of you take this amazing gift that is Williams on your journey, and you do not stop until you find your truth and catch your salamander,” Curtin said.