#culture best of: “In her last commencement speech, Tilghman tells Class of 2013 to ‘aim high and be bold’ “

30 Jun

In her last commencement speech, Tilghman tells Class of 2013 to ‘aim high and be bold’

By Carla Javier Staff Writer
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Published: Saturday, June 1st, 2013
After a Commencement weekend characterized by rain, with guests  huddling under white tents, the sun shone brightly Tuesday morning as  members of the Class of 2013 marched onto the front lawn of Nassau Hall  for the University’s 266th Commencement.One  thousand two hundred and sixty-one members of the Class of 2013, five  students from other classes and 892 graduate students received degrees  in the morning ceremony, joined from the audience by roughly 10,000  friends and family members.

The University’s 19th president  Shirley Tilghman addressed the graduates. In her last Commencement  remarks as president of the University, she reminded the graduates of  the advice she gave them when they first entered the school at their  Opening Exercises in 2009 — including to “remember to exercise, eat  healthy, get some sleep and have fun.”

“Except for the sleep part,  which I know you all ignored, I hope those recommendations were helpful  from time to time. Now here you are — four years later — and we are  going out together,” Tilghman said.

Tilghman then challenged the  graduates to use their liberal arts educations to fulfill Princeton’s  motto and “be in the service of this and all nations.”

Tilghman  highlighted the athletic and academic accomplishments of the graduating  class, referencing the field hockey, men’s squash and fencing teams’  national titles, as well as the women’s basketball team’s and men’s  swimming and diving team’s Ivy championships.

In addition, Tilghman mentioned the class’s advocacy, civic engagement and independent work.

Despite  the class’s successes in these fields, Tilghman told the graduates that  learning within a classroom or laboratory was not enough. Instead, she  said, friendships and extracurricular experiences had challenged  students to “embody the qualities of character we most value in  Princetonians.”

Tilghman said these qualities were “loyalty, courage, honesty, integrity and a commitment to serve others.”

Tilghman closed her remarks by encouraging the graduates to “aim high and be bold.”

Valedictorian  Aman Sinha ’13 from Ivyland, Pa., a mechanical and aerospace  engineering major, reflected on the graduates’ time at the University  and reminded them that while their time together was great, it was time  to leave to pursue new adventures and to make room for the incoming  Class of 2017.

Sinha likened the graduates’ diplomas to “fancy eviction notices,”  adding that they were “so fancy that most of it is still written in  Latin.”

“That eviction notice will be a reminder that you can do  anything you set your mind to, that you really can make your way in the  world,” Sinha said.

Salutatorian Amelia Bensch-Schaus ’13, a  classics major from Swarthmore, Pa., delivered the traditional  salutatory address in Latin. Per tradition, the graduates received  annotated copies instructing them to laugh or clap at specific parts  while the visitors were not provided with these instructions.

“Once  we entered these very gates as sheep, but now we will emerge from these  same gates as men and women unafraid of hungry wolves and fierce  storms: We will emerge as tigers of Princeton,” Bensch-Schaus said in  Latin, followed by cheers and rounds of applause from the Class of 2013.

In  addition to the degrees conferred to the undergraduate Class of 2013  and the graduate students, honorary degrees were presented by University  Orator and Trustee David Offensend ’75.

Honorary doctorates were  awarded to National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis S.  Collins, Executive Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History  of Science Dr. Lorraine Jenifer Daston, world renowned design architect  Frank Gehry, professor and Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison and Afghan  Institute of Learning Executive Director Sakena Yacoobi.

Additionally, unannounced in the program, Chair of the Board of  Trustees Katie Hall ’80 conferred an honorary doctorate of law to  outgoing President Shirley Tilghman. The assembled crowd gave her a  standing ovation.

As part of the ceremony, University Provost and  President-elect Christopher Eisgruber ’83 recognized the recipients of  prizes for distinguished secondary school teaching in the state of New  Jersey, including Medha Jayant Kirtane, John McAllen, Robert O’Boyle and  Deane R. Stepansky ’73.

University teachers were recognized as  well. Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin recognized assistant professor of  classics Yelena Baraz, associate professor of electrical engineering  Andrew A. Houck, professor of English Deborah E. Nord and astrophysical  sciences department chair David N. Spergel as recipients of the  President’s Awards for Distinguished Teaching.

After the awards,  Tilghman led the assembled crowd in thanking outgoing Executive Vice  President Mark Burstein, who will leave the University to become  president of Lawrence University in Wisconsin.

The ceremony  concluded with the benediction and the singing of “Old Nassau” before  the graduates proceeded out of FitzRandolph Gate and then back into  campus. The seniors received their degrees at their respective  residential colleges.


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