Three distinguished leaders received honorary degrees at the 180th Commencement.
President Alison Byerly conferred them upon Commencement speaker Erik Weihenmayer, renowned adventurer, author, and filmmaker; Karl Stirner, internationally known sculptor and pioneer of the arts community in Easton; and Miles Young, worldwide chairman and chief executive of Ogilvy & Mather and president of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America.
The citations are below.
Karl Stirner, we thank you for over 30 years of making Easton a better place to live, work, and dream. You created an arts scene in your adopted hometown by turning a furniture warehouse into a rental center/salon for painters, photographers, dancers, and filmmakers. You created a gallery scene by curating shows highlighting the unity of diversity. You created a loft scene by encouraging natives and non-natives to have the courage to transform long-vacant commercial spaces into residential studios.
You have been especially effective at stopping bad scenes. You helped keep the State Theatre from closing by persuading bank officials to not call in a loan. You convinced a talented furniture designer to stay in Easton, telling him he could create New York-worthy pieces on Northampton Street. You kept a painter from giving up by guiding him to a more satisfying medium, by promoting his work, by buying his work.
You have inspired us with your sculptures, which are towering, blossoming, and questioning. You have inspired us with your remarkable ability to recover from illness and your remarkable ability to remake yourself, a process you call “crossing the line.” You have inspired us with your loving, fun-loving partnership with your late wife Gay Elwell, a journalist, district justice, and fellow true-blue citizen.
Your many honors range from the first Easton Historic Preservation Award to the Karl Stirner Arts Trail along the Bushkill Creek. They reward a welcome wagoneer without peer, a cultural shepherd without a crook, a welder with a civic torch.
THEREFORE, by the authority granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the Trustees of Lafayette College and by them delegated to me, I award you the degree of DOCTOR OF FINE ARTS, honoris causa, with all the rights, honors, and privileges thereto appertaining, in token whereof I present you with this diploma and direct that you be vested in the hood emblematic of the degree.
Miles Young, we salute you as a co-captain of an extraordinary voyage. As president of the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, you are producing and promoting this spring’s visit to 12 American ports by an extraordinarily authentic replica of the Hermione, the warship that carried Lafayette on the secret mission that helped the colonies liberate themselves from your native Great Britain.
The Hermione project suits you as an ardent fan of precision, passion, and history. You relish the fact that it took 17 years to build the $27 million ship. That the hull contains nearly 400,000 hand-sculpted pieces from more than 2,000 specifically shaped oak trees. That a third of the 242 crew members are women. That exhibits and events will demonstrate how the original Hermione helped secure pivotal naval victories during the American Revolution, sealed an alliance between the U.S. and France, and made Lafayette a French Founding Father.
You have been a Lafayette-like leader during your 33 years at Oglivy & Mather. As worldwide chairman and CEO, you have helped make O&M the largest advertising-agency group by developing new markets, supervising seamless teams, and following founder David Oglivy’s philosophy: “We have a habit of divine discontent with our performance. It is an antidote to smugness.”
You have repeated another powerful pitch while championing the new Hermione to students, donors, and Henry Kissinger. Your mantra is Lafayette’s motto: “Why Not?”
THEREFORE, by the authority granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the Trustees of Lafayette College and by them delegated to me, I award you the degree of DOCTOR OF HUMANITIES, honoris causa, with all the rights, honors, and privileges thereto appertaining, in token whereof I present you with this diploma and direct that you be vested in the hood emblematic of the degree.
Erik Weihenmayer, you have elevated the world with your elevating adventures around the world. You are the only blind person to complete the Primal Quest, one of the most brutal endurance tests; the only blind person to reach the summits of the highest peaks on every continent; the only blind mountaineer to appear on Time magazine’s cover.
You were inspired to exceed your limitations by Terry Fox, who ran across his native Canada to raise money for cancer research and to prove he wouldn’t be handicapped by losing a leg to cancer. Your parents inspired you to become an exceptional wrestler and an influential teacher. Through No Barriers USA, which you co-founded, you inspire people of all abilities to live more adventurously. You led non-sighted and sighted hikers to Machu Picchu’s 8,000-foot-high Incan ruins; you empowered soldiers injured in Middle Eastern wars by taking them 20,000 feet to the Lobuche Peak in Nepal.
Your expeditions revolve around tremendous preparations and tremendous teammates. You trained for six years before attempting to kayak the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. You completed the 277-mile trip with the invaluable aid of your aide-de-camp, Lonnie Bedwell, a blind veteran of the U.S. Navy and white water.
You encourage people to turn adversity into an advantage, to view nature as a laboratory of human nature, to treat failure as a springboard for success, to balance hubris with humility. As you’ve poetically pointed out, you can never conquer a mountain; you can reach its top only when it naps or blinks.
THEREFORE, by the authority granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the Trustees of Lafayette College and by them delegated to me, I award you the degree of DOCTOR OF HUMANE LETTERS, honoris causa, with all the rights, honors, and privileges thereto appertaining, in token whereof I present you with this diploma and direct that you be vested in the hood emblematic of the degree.