Recounting the trials and adventures following his own graduation, Hobart and William Smith Colleges 2018 Commencement speaker John Grotzinger ’79, Sc.D. ’13, the mission leader and project scientist for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, advised graduates “to seek out the difficult challenges and invest all that you have in them.”
During the 193rd Commencement of Hobart College and the 107th Commencement of William Smith College, Grotzinger, who guided the team that landed the Curiosity Rover on Mars, detailed the days immediately after he earned his Hobart diploma in 1979, when he flew to the remote Northwest Territories to begin his first job with the Geologic Survey of Canada. After a harrowing plane ride through snow squalls, Grotzinger disembarked on a frozen lake in the Arctic Circle to begin a three-month adventure walking miles through swamps to map the wilderness. The “physical and mental challenges…” led to “…a distinct sense of satisfaction knowing I hadn’t just been able to survive this workload, but I was actually growing because of it.”
His time working in that demanding landscape “made it possible for me to know with no doubt that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life,” Grotzinger said. “I was grateful for this rare opportunity that taught me perseverance, tolerance, focus and that hard work can be a lot of fun…. Most importantly, it instilled in me the confidence to pursue new ideas and that in the most difficult tasks — in these challenges are where new opportunities lie. The moral of the story is to seek these challenges out and embrace them as gifts.”
The 2018 Commencement ceremony marked the 107th graduation for William Smith and the 193rd graduation for Hobart. This year, the Colleges awarded degrees to 241 Hobart students, 280 William Smith students and eight master’s candidates, as well as one College Experience Certificate through the HWS and ARC partnership program. The Colleges also awarded honorary degrees to Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68, chair of the Board of Trustees and CEO and chair of the Bozzuto Group; Carolyn Carr McGuire ’78, former trustee and founder and co-chair of the Community Consulting Teams of Boston; and Dr. Garry A. Mendez Jr. ’58, P’96, the executive director of the National Trust for the Development of African American Men.
HWS President Emeritus Mark D. Gearan L.H.D. ’17, P’21 reflected on his years at the Colleges and the advice he dispensed to previous classes. “In 2005, I urged the graduates that when they were driving out of Geneva for the last time to look at the passenger side rearview mirror where it says, ‘objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.’ And I told the graduates it would be true for them, for Hobart and William Smith would be closer than it appears…I know that my words in 2005 are validated by my own experience. HWS will always be closer than it appears. It will always stay with you.”
In his valedictory address, Interim President Patrick A. McGuire L.H.D. ’12 recounted the accomplishments of the members of the graduating classes, who “have changed the lives of your fellow students, changed the lives of your parents, grandparents and relatives. Yes, I know who you are and…everyone on this Quad knows who you are and what you have done, and are capable of doing in your future,” he said. “And I will let them know you are coming.”
In her speech, William Smith senior speaker Quinn Cullum ’18 noted the character of her classmates as “a group of young people who speak out, advocate, and demand more. As we move forward and out into the world, we will continue to work hard and contribute wherever we are. I am proud to graduate amongst a group of young people who are unable to sit by idly and watch the world pass us by. Classes of 2018, we may feel uncertain about what is to come, but we are ready.”
Hobart senior speaker Almamy Conde ’18 emphasized that regardless of background, “to achieve the success that we want, we have to be willing to take calculated risks, remain truthful to ourselves and stay committed to being great…Remember to have a dream is just a dream, but having a plan with a dream, is a story. What’s your story?”
During the Commencement ceremony, Bozzuto presented the annual Touching the Future awards, which celebrate and honor educators from elementary, middle and high school who have had an impact on current HWS graduates. This year, the Colleges recognized two high school English teachers: Kim Kraner of Avon High School in Avon, Conn., nominated by her former student Sara Dolan ’18; and Ryan Conway of York Central School in Restof, N.Y., nominated by his former student Tyler Fuller ’18.