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Wells College hosts 153rd Commencement ceremony in Aurora

During Wells College’s 153rd Commencement ceremony today, President Jonathan Gibralter conferred undergraduate degrees upon 73 graduating students. In addition, a longtime professor who is retiring this year was granted the honorary title of professor emeritus, and several students were honored with academic and leadership awards.

The day’s events began at 10 a.m. in front of Macmillan Hall, with the traditional processional of students, faculty and featured guests through the building’s front doors. After the Rev. Barb Blom ’82 shared a spirited invocation, Marie Chapman Carroll ’75, chair of the College’s Board of Trustees, congratulated the seniors on their extraordinary achievement: “Today, we celebrate your rebirth as global citizens, prepared to thrive in a post-pandemic world, striving to make that world a better place. The best part is that you are embarking upon this ambitious journey supported by a network of over 7,000 alumnae and alumni who warmly welcome you to their community.”

In his remarks, President Gibralter praised the graduates for their perseverance during a very difficult year. “We are here today to honor you as graduating seniors, but we are also here today because of you — each and every one of you who upheld our Community Care Pledge and took the personal responsibility to keep each other safe. That says a lot about you as people who live out our mission statement: to think critically, reason wisely and act humanely,” said President Gibralter. “You thought about the potential risk to your fellow classmates and our community, you made the right decisions and, in doing so, you demonstrated your humanity and care for others,” he added.

Student Commencement speaker Kaylen Furr ’21 — who graduated summa cum laude with distinction in both of their majors, psychology and women’s & gender studies — built upon a quote about ivy by film director Miranda July: “We always found our roots here; in simpler times, in the times we thought we wouldn’t get through, we are rooted here now — and no matter the paths we take next, we are rooted here. Like ivy, we grow where there is room for us. The roots that we have grounded ourselves in here will live on, but we have so many more walls to climb.” Furr went on to note that, despite the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on their college experience, the class of 2021 never lost their sense of community. “I would even argue that our community grew stronger and closer,” Furr noted.

In her keynote address, Katie Fong ’06 explained how the class of 2021 would begin their “second Wells education” the moment they received their degrees this morning. “My second Wells education was about doing for others what my Wells experience did for me . . . I hope that, when the time comes for you to lead others in learning — when you first become a manager or a mentor, or maybe when you first stand at the front of a classroom yourself — I hope that you will remember the way that your Wells professors made you feel. I hope that you will remember how they made you feel seen, how they ensured that your voice was heard, how they gave you the opportunity to learn about something you cared about, and how they broke down barriers for you to become who you are becoming. Your charge as a Wellsian is to have and to share. I hope you pass that on,” Fong said. She then exhorted the graduates to raise their voices against injustice, to adapt to constantly changing circumstances, to build community, and to pursue knowledge that will improve the world around them.

President Gibralter presented several academic and leadership awards to deserving students. He also granted emeritus status to Kent Klitgaard, who this month concluded a three-decade career as professor of economics and sustainability at Wells.