HARTFORD, CT, May 20, 2012 – On a day that was as majestic as the Commencement ceremony under the soaring elms on the Main Quadrangle, 542 seniors received B.A. or B.S. degrees and 43 students received master’s degrees as hundreds of proud guests looked on.
Commencement speaker Anne Fadiman, whose speech was relatively short but eloquent, urged members of the Class of 2012 to practice humility as they move into the next phase of their lives, and also to be tolerant of others and respectful of social and cultural differences.
“I ask you to do two contradictory things – honor difference and commonality,” said Fadiman, whose book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, won the 1997 National Books Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction. “There is a way to do both. Don’t assume that you…stand at the center of the universe. It isn’t true and it never helps.”
For Fadiman, her appearance Sunday marked a homecoming of sorts. She addressed the Class of 2012 when they arrived as first-year students in the fall of 2008 and were assigned the task of reading her prize-winning book. “So we begin and end together,” Fadiman said. “I’m honored to complete the circle.”
On that August day in 2008, Fadiman noted, the students hadn’t yet discovered good pizza, experienced life on campus, learned to chug beer or attended class. And, she said, most of them still thought squash was a vegetable, an allusion to Trinity’s national championship squash teams, of which there have been three since the students have been at Trinity.
As the graduates venture forth, Fadiman told them, they must learn how to respect each other for who they are. “It’s one of the most important skills you can master.”
In terms of humility, Fadiman said it is important for students to “find the common ground by acknowledging that your way may not be the way…As you march down the Long Walk to the larger Long Walk of life,” she said, “turn your eyes to the wider world.”
Fadiman, who has written for many of the country’s leading magazines and newspapers, received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree for her tireless service to the profession of letters and her belief in the power of journalism to illuminate and improve the human condition.
Two other notable people were given honorary degrees: Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic Studies at the Hartford Seminary, where she founded the Islamic Chaplaincy Program, and Ward S. Curran, a former economics professor who is Secretary of the College. Mattson received an honorary Doctor of Law Degree for her service to Islamic communities worldwide, her distinguished scholarship, and her commitment to fostering social progress in the Islamic world; Curran received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his long and distinguished service to his profession. Curran has served in various capacities at Trinity for more than 50 years.
The valedictorian and salutatorian of the Class of 2012 were also named: Mary Morr of Denver, CO, who graduated with a B.A. with honors in general scholarship and public policy and law, and Kayla Demers of Randolph, NH, who graduated with a B.A. with honors in general scholarship and American Studies.
Morr and Demers were also named Optimae, meaning that they earned an A- or better in all courses required for their degree. (Male students are known as Optimi.) Fifteen other students were recognized as Optimae or Optimi: Kevin Huang of Bellevue, WA; Sean McCarthy of Duxbury, MA; John Mason of Nahant, MA; Viktoriya Lineva of Bulgaria; Yuan Mei of China; Brian Castelluccio of Reading, MA; Thomas McTeague of Amesbury, MA; Amanda Sweat of Georgetown, MA; Nichola Clark of Conway, AR; Kelly O’Brien of Pelham Manor, NY; Andrea Chunga-Celis of Beaverton, OR; William Moffett Jr. of East Hartford, CT; Michelle Deluse of Farmington, CT; Paul Holland of East Hampton, CT; and Katherine Joachim of Whitefish Bay, WI.
As is traditional, Commencement was held on the main quad and the scholarly procession began precisely at 10:50 a.m. on the Long Walk, with the students followed by faculty and senior administration officials, who wore robes with colorful trim, hoods and hats.
Trinity President James F. Jones, Jr., welcomed the students, their family and their friends. He was followed by Paul E. Raether, ’68, P’93, ’96, ’01. Raether is the longest serving chairman of the Trinity Board of Trustees. As an alumnus and the father of three daughters who graduated from the College, Raether lauded the benefits of a liberal arts education and reassured the members of the Class of 2012 that Trinity “will always be a place where the door is always open” to them.
Raether presented Trustee Awards for Faculty, Student and Staff Excellence. The first went to Susan Masino, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, who was cited not only for her scientific research, her outstanding teaching and her collegial presence, but also for her work as an environmentalist.
The first student winner was Herman Brito of Wayland, MA, who graduated with honors in public policy and law, and was a member of the varsity football team, a mentor in the Hartford Public School system and was recognized as a scholar-athlete by NESCAC. The second student was Lorenzo Sewanan of Hollis, NY, who graduated with honors in engineering and physics and has been awarded a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship as well as being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and being involved in Engineers Without Borders.
Recognized for her outstanding contributions as a Trinity staff member was Doris Kammradt, head librarian, collections, research and instruction at the Raether Library. Kammradt was cited for her devotion to the library, the quality of her work and as an inspiration to her colleagues.
In addition to Masino, two other faculty members were recognized for their contributions to the academic vibrancy of Trinity. Ellison Banks Findley, professor of religion and international studies, was presented with the Thomas Church Brownell Prize for Teaching Excellence, which is given to a senior faculty member who consistently performs exemplary work. Findley was described as “a born teacher,” one whose “impact on her students is palpable.”
The Arthur H. Hughes Award for Teaching Excellence, which is given to a faculty member who has taught for fewer than nine years, went to Seth Markle, assistant professor of history and international studies. Markle was cited as a role model for his students, especially in regard to his work in Tanzania and for strengthening Trinity’s African studies program.