“After four years of living in a welcoming city and neighborhood like Easton and College Hill, having gorgeous academic buildings with state-of-the-art equipment, and competing in impressive athletic facilities, [I’ve realized] what truly makes this college so special is the people I was surrounded by.”
Connections and relationships were the theme of the farewell speech given by Cory Spera ’15 today at Lafayette’s 180th Commencement. Spera, the 2015 Pepper Prize winner, reflected on how he was inspired and motivated by many people from the College community, including a research mentor, a member of Dining Services and a fellow athlete who suffered multiple concussions and still managed to study for the MCAT and get into medical school.
The importance of remaining connected to the College community was also stressed by President Alison Byerly. She discussed some of the many times the community joined together over the last year, such as the 150th Lafayette-Lehigh football game in Yankee Stadium, the men’s basketball Patriot League championship, and the multimedia, interdisciplinary production of Frankenstein 2029.
“We hope, too, that wherever your voyage takes you, you will continue to be sustained by the strength of the Lafayette community: by the faculty who mentored you, the staff who supported you, and the friends that you have made. Though today you may leave Lafayette College, you will never leave Lafayette behind.”
The ceremony included the awarding of 615 degrees to 595 members of the Class of 2015. Following College tradition, Li Guo ’15 and Heather Hughes ’15, who both achieved the highest cumulative grade-point average in the class, were the first to receive their diplomas. Guo, of Wuhan, China, graduated with a bachelor of science in psychology, and Hughes, of Rocky Mount, N.C., received a bachelor of arts with majors in philosophy and a self-designed major in linguistics.
Byerly presented honorary degrees to Commencement speaker Eric Weihenmayer, renowned adventurer, author, and filmmaker (Doctor of Humane Letters); Karl Stirner, internationally known sculptor and pioneer of the arts community in Easton (Doctor of Fine Arts); and Miles Young, worldwide chairman and chief executive of Ogilvy & Mather and president of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America (Doctor of Humanities).
“What if adversity weren’t the enemy, but the pathway, the pathway to change?” asked Weihenmayer in his speech. “The light within you is stronger than the barriers in your way…Commit to nurturing that light.”
Edward Ahart ’69, chair of the Board of Trustees, recognized Trustee Alan Griffith ’64, who has been elected to emeritus status and received the Lafayette Medal for Distinguished Service. Griffith had served on the board since 1994, and was chair from 2001-10. The Lafayette Medal is the College’s premier award for volunteers, given to those who have a demonstrated record of voluntary service in a variety of areas with noteworthy achievement in each.
This year’s Senior Class Gift, which is the highest total ever raised at more than $6,000, will again be used for student summer internship stipends. The giving rate for the Class of 2015 was 95 percent. Jake Dunsmore, Aidan Guilfoyle, Saahil Nandrajog, and Abby Williams, chairs of the Class of 2015 Gift Committee, officially presented the class gift.
Byerly also congratulated the recipients of the annual Lafayette awards for distinguished teaching, scholarship, and service to the College and recognized 11 faculty members who are retiring and have been elected to emeritus status.