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Commencement 2009 Recap

Congratulations to the Williams College Class of 2009!

The Speeches

Honorary Degree Citations

Emeritus Citations

Did you attend commencement? Please share your thoughts, and/or links to your videos and photos in the comments below.

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#1 Comment By Daniel Bornstein On June 7, 2009 @ 10:47 pm

Wow. I just read that valedictorian speech. That’s impressive.

#2 Comment By Larry George On June 7, 2009 @ 11:48 pm

Does anyone have a link to the list of honors and awards?

#3 Comment By Larry George On June 8, 2009 @ 9:32 am

Several Williamstown/North Adams/Adams graduates:

#4 Comment By Larry George On June 8, 2009 @ 9:34 am

Looks like Mark Taylor will forever after be a member of the Williams faculty. I had thought Columbia had taken him, but I don’t understand very well how these things work.

#5 Comment By JG On June 8, 2009 @ 10:40 am

Larry – he may have been owed a sabbatical year, known he was qualified for emeritus status, and taken it as a perfect opportunity to get a new gig and have security for later on. Whatever issues Taylor had at Williams, it always seemed he liked the place well enough. Perhaps the Purple Valley is his semi-retirement plan (w/ office space)?

#6 Comment By hwc On June 8, 2009 @ 11:25 am

I thought the valedictorian’s speech was kind of “meh”. On the other hand, the class speaker’s remarks were anything but bland. I couldn’t believe the shot he took at Morty:

So maybe my dad had it all wrong. Maybe it’s not my peers and classmates or, god forbid, my older brother, whom I should be emulating. Perhaps I should take a good hard look at the people who are running this place: our revered faculty, staff and administrators. Real adults.

Then again, sometimes it seems like even those adults have no idea what they are doing. They just do what feels good and see if they can get away with it. At some point in Hopkins Hall, for instance, one adult said to another, “You know, Nancy, I really like the idea of kids living in little groups. Little kingdoms. Governing themselves. Always have. Always will. What do you say we make them do it?” Bam. The cluster housing system is born. Adults pull that kind of stuff all the time. Why is it that off-campus housing is often closer to the center of campus than on-campus housing? Why was Walden Street made one-way to relieve traffic in an 8,000 person town? Why do professors give mid-term exams in the final week of school? Why did I fail my final exam in math? Adults.

Parting thought? I’m picturing 518 mothers turning to their new-minted graduates after the ceremony and saying, “I can’t believe you don’t know who James Taylor is!” Jeez, he would have been mildly irrelevant as an honorary degree recepient by the time I my graduated in the 1970s. Maybe his kid is an Eph and this was a development “play”. I don’t know. And, who the heck wakes up one day and says, “You know, I think we should honor that reporter from NPR…”? Do these people have agents pitching honorary degree proposals to colleges? We need Paul Harvey to give us the rest of the story on some of these selections.

#7 Comment By JeffZ On June 8, 2009 @ 11:30 am

To paraphrase Jon Stewart speaking about Fox News recently on the Daily Show, HWC, it must really suck seeing the world through S**T colored glasses. Christ man, chill out.

#8 Comment By JeffZ On June 8, 2009 @ 11:33 am

Oh, and I LOVED the class speaker’s speech. Funny, irreverent, self-deprecating — all things Ephblog could use a little more of. If you just read HWC’s blurb, you’d think he was targetting Morty for some special criticism, when in fact the speech was an equal opportunity offender — sort of a mini-roast of anyone associated with Williams. Nothing at all wrong with that on an occasion that generally has more than its share of self-importance and solemnity.

#9 Comment By 09er On June 8, 2009 @ 11:36 am

As a grad of 2009, I would like to say that Anne Garrels was very close to the best part of the entire service. Her life and accomplishments are amazing, her speech was fantastic, and everyone I spoke with said the same thing.

I’ve been listening to her reporting for as long as I can remember on NPR, there are few better journalists in the world than she, and certainly a much better choice than other recent journalists who have spoken at commencement (re: 2007).

And judging by the last four years, I doubt there will be better graduations in the near future.

#10 Comment By sophmom On June 8, 2009 @ 11:38 am


If you read the entire speech, it was obviously meant in fun. The speaker absolutely lambasted his own brother and best friend:

My brother works at a pizza shop to pay rent, and his most recent financial accomplishment has been to qualify for food stamps. Needless to say, this has made our parents quite proud of their little Williams graduate.

Dave has been equally successful. After shamelessly following other people around on their travel fellowships, Dave returned to the United States of the unemployed. Two years after graduating, Dave is still technically jobless, and consistently challenges our assumption that he even graduated at all. He spends a majority of his time on a couch in my co-op house at Williams, inventing “start-up companies,” making websites for campus organizations, and playing internet games with my housemates.

I’d be interested to hear from someone who actually listened to the speeches. Hard to tell, but this one could have come off hilariously.

#11 Comment By wwilson On June 8, 2009 @ 11:54 am

Sometimes, reading EphBlog makes me realize that I shouldn’t be so hard on my 5 and 7 year old sons for their constant bickering and whining at each other. Maybe that is the just the way people are.

Congrats to all of the graduates! I hope the weekend’s activities were entertaining for all, and memorable for some.

#12 Comment By Ronit On June 8, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

Aroop’s older brother, Auyon, was the class speaker for the Class of 2007, and also gave an absolutely awesome speech. Definitely was the best part of my graduation ceremony.

#13 Comment By ’10 On June 8, 2009 @ 1:12 pm

Aroop’s speech and Jeff Kaplan’s were both well-delivered and came off really well. Peter Nurnberg’s wasn’t bad, definitely above par for a valedictorian speech, but not as engaging as Aroop and Jeff who were actually chosen for their speaking abilities.

Maybe it was just his delivery, but I thought Clarence Otis’s speech was not particularly interesting. I stopped really following what he was saying about two minutes in. I think he had a good message, but given his exceptional life I was disappointed he wasn’t able to give a more compelling speech.

But still, between the great student speakers, Anne Garrels, John Glenn, James Taylor, and the beautiful weather, I’ll be happy if my class’s graduation next year goes anywhere near this well.

#14 Comment By PareskyLawnBowler On June 8, 2009 @ 1:12 pm

Sophmom – Aroops speech was certainly delivered with humor and taken that way by all present. This line

So what happened? Where did these two slip up — go wrong? What in their respective educations led to this point? Who’s to blame? Professor Bernhardsson? Maybe Dean Roseman? Dare I suggest, Morton Owen Schapiro? I want to know who’s responsible.

had Morty laughing in his seat.

#15 Comment By hwc On June 8, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

If you read the entire speech, it was obviously meant in fun.

Well, duh.

#16 Comment By sophmom On June 8, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

hwc @ 15:

I apologize for underestimating your humor quotient. And the fact that that was less acceptable to you than the accusation that you wear S**t colored glasses, is the best giggle of all, and proof positive that I was wrong, so kudos to you.

Personally, I thought Mukharji’s speech read hilariously, but as we all know, so much can…ahem…depend on tone and delivery.

to ’10:

I was curious to hear from those who heard Otis speak, because to me, his speech (in print) looked a bit boring in the midsection, but strong at the finish.

#17 Comment By lgeorge On June 8, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

iBerkshires.com has the list of all 18 Berkshire County graduates and some details.

#18 Comment By lgeorge On June 8, 2009 @ 5:39 pm

Did James sing?

#19 Comment By hwc On June 8, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

RE: #16

Alas, virtually every time I post on EphBlog I am met with that kind of personal attack, althouth not usually profanity laced. It is one aspect that truly diminishes EphBlog and the Eph community. The same thing happens nearly every time DKane posts as well. It’s ugly, but all I can do is ignore it and the people who go that route. It’s a shame that the management of EphBlog has decided it is appropriate.

#20 Comment By hwc On June 8, 2009 @ 6:42 pm

RE: #9

Alas, there is no indication on the commencement webpage that the honorary recepients even spoke.

#21 Comment By rory On June 8, 2009 @ 6:52 pm

traditionally, the honorary degree recipients don’t speak @ williams. and please, hwc, don’t make this about you. to me, that impetus that a number of posters have is an aspect that diminishes ephblog as well.

#22 Comment By rory On June 8, 2009 @ 6:53 pm

wait–so honorary degree recipients spoke this year? how long has that been happening?

#23 Comment By jeffz On June 8, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

HWC, for once we are ALMOST on the same page. I’d make just a few minor changes to your post:

Alas, virtually every time HWC posts on EphBlog he offers that kind of nasty, spiteful, patronizing, sarcastic negativity, althouth not usually profanity laced. It is one aspect that truly diminishes EphBlog and the Eph community. The same thing happens on occasion courtesy of DKane’s posts as well, although in DK’s case, he at least contributes a far greater volume of constructive, positive commentary. It’s ugly, but all we can do is ignore him as really the only person who goes that route now that Broadband has been banned. It’s a shame that the management of EphBlog has decided it is appropriate.

Really HWC, why is it the nastiest, most pejorative people are always the ones who are quickest to take offense (and also have the LEAST sense of humor about themselves)? Sorry to now make this about ME, but I’ve been one of the more prolific posters on this site for years, and even though I have strong opinions, and I am not ALWAYS positive, I am confident that I have built up enough of a reservoir of good will that people have almost never (outside of you) taken issue with my commentary or posts. Don’t you realize that your constant, repetitive negativity, your utter contempt for Williams and a large segment of its students, your constant need to criticize everyone and everything in about 80 percent of your comments (I mean, the only time you comment off-point is usually, as per one of today’s comments, an extremely nasty, sarcastic comment about Obama), your mean-spiritedness, lack of good humor, seeming inability to say anything positive about Williams or anyone who attends the school or works there, just wears many of the regulars, myself foremost among them, out? Now that Broadband is gone, you are by far the greatest source of vitriol, nastiness, inexplicable hostility and anger on this site … if that is what you want your legacy to be, fine. But for the love of God, when your never ending stream of bile and negativity gets to be a little too much, and a few of us need to, on occasion, vent about it, can you at least now whine and take it like a man? If it was, as you incorrectly claim, in response to ALL of your negative posts, that venting would take over this entire blog. The ratio of my negativity to yours is about 1:1000; if it approaches 1:1, come back and complain. Until then, either modulate your tone at least some of the time, or stop acting all wounded every time I or anyone else calls you out. I am not sure if the self-pity or the patronizing comments is the more annoying, but each are a major turn off.

#24 Comment By jeffz On June 8, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

Sorry folks for the many typos in my rant (e.g. now instead of not). And really, for the rant itself. But when someone has to belittle everyone and everything, even undergraduate students, even those planning and participating on their graduation day, with nary a positive word to say about Williams and its students, or really anything else in the world other than Swarthmore and Sarah Palin, sometimes it just gets to be too much to sit quietly and take.

#25 Comment By rory On June 8, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

personally, when i have a rant like that, i just email JG instead.

though that was a pretty impressive rant.

#26 Comment By Soph Mom On June 8, 2009 @ 7:59 pm

Management sucks.

#27 Comment By hwc On June 8, 2009 @ 8:02 pm

Swarthmore and Sarah Palin

LOL. I’m pretty sure that is the first time those have ever beem, or ever will be, linked together.

BTW, I thought the topic was Williams’ commencement speakers.

#28 Comment By PareskyLawnBowler On June 8, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

James Taylor sang in front of Paresky with the Ephlats.

Or maybe not, I’m foggy on details. That might have been Anne Garrels.

#29 Comment By ’10 On June 8, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

As usual, the honorary degree recipients didn’t speak at commencement (except Mr. Otis). Anne Garrels spoke at Baccalaureate, and James Taylor and John Glenn were featured in separate events on Saturday.

#30 Comment By student10 On June 8, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

I know I am not alone in saying that NPR reporters were probably some of the most recognizable (in voice at least) to a lot of Williams students. Anne Garrels is particularly inspiring( You think spending months at a time, for years, embedded in Iraq isn’t worth recognizing?) , but I grew up listening to NPR everyday and I would love it if one of my favorites is honored at my commencement.

#31 Comment By Ronit On June 8, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

@student10: I watch TV precisely never, and I listen to NPR/PRI for an average of probably 1-2 hours every morning, much more on the weekends. I’d find Anne Garrels far, far more interesting than I did Katie Couric, who was unfortunately chosen to be our commencement speaker.

#32 Comment By lgeorge On June 9, 2009 @ 6:03 am

I agree about NPR (and Couric seemed such a “dated preference” choice).

Here’s a piece on James Taylor’s role in the weekend, with some photos of him singing on Saturday. Maybe he is a dated preference choice as hwc suggested, but I think he is a good example (very appropriately for a commencement weekend) of how a person can put together a life outside of the “normal” professional career tracks and over a lifetime, even in a field that one would have once expected to hold little space for those over thirty. I don’t know whether it was emphasized when he was introduced, but, in addition to forging a satisfying singing career, he has long been an engaged Berkshire County resident (amongst other things, he does benefit concerts at Tanglewood each year); a creative friend and nexus, drawing in and influencing the work of many others, such as Yo-Yo Ma; a mentor; a supporter of Williams students by way of offering an internship each summer; involved in environmental and political issues; and generally an interesting person to watch from afar.

#33 Comment By lgeorge On June 9, 2009 @ 8:48 am

#34 Comment By Parent ’12 On June 9, 2009 @ 10:23 am

Thank you all for all the various links.

The turkey carcass boxing gloves definitely got my jaw to drop with laughter. I’m sure the anecdote put everyone in a collective spirit of good humor.

The links at #32 & 33– The photos & copy illustrate the timelessness of commencement.

#35 Comment By lgeorge On June 9, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

Here’s the press release preceding Sen. Glenn’s appearance during Commencement weekend. It may well be that the graduates are not as awed by space travelers as those in my generation are, but, in his own way, Sen, Glenn is an inspiring role model, having fought in WWII, gone into space, served in the Senate, and then returned to space when he was “really old.” Congratulations to the Class of 2009. May you lead full lives like that of John Glenn.

#36 Comment By JG On June 9, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

@ rory – your emailed venting is appreciated and enjoyed (and heartily laughed at…er, with). and @jeffz – you’re welcome to join the chorus. There are others on this site who do vent to me as well…you are not alone (alone, alone, alone…)