In his address to the Class of 2016 at Franklin & Marshall College's May 7 Commencement, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf urged the graduates to consider democracy in the U.S.
"It really needs your attention," said Wolf, who received an honorary degree from the College. "It needs it because that's the way self-government works. It thrives only when it gets the attention of the people it serves.
"It needs the attention of good people like you."
Wolf spoke to 530 black-robed seniors, 71 of them the first in their families to graduate college. He warned F&M's new alumni, "Too many people simply don't trust their government. They despair of it; they suspect they can't make it work."
The first-term governor cited political turmoil in the nation today and urged graduates to get involved by voting and serving in public office.
"This is a great chance to do something spectacular, something important," Wolf said. "The people we remember are the Franklins and Marshalls and the Washingtons, Lincolns, Tubmans, Roosevelts, and Anthonys. They were active at times precisely like these. They built and rebuilt our nation."
While inclement weather moved the ceremony from Hartman Green to inside the Alumni Sports & Fitness Center, nothing could dampen the bright spirits and excitement felt by the graduates and the estimated 3,000 family members and friends who attended.
In his speech, F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield shared that Benjamin Winter '67, vice chair of the College's Board of Trustees, and his wife, Susan Winter, had made the second-largest gift in the College's history, $10 million for construction of "a once-in-a-generation visual arts building."
"They believe in the College, they believe in the young, they believe in creativity, and they believe in liberal arts education," Porterfield said of the couple. "This gift is about our future, and Commencement, too, is about our future."
A moment of remembrance was marked for Elana Stein '16, who died in 2014. With the Stein family present in the audience, Kate Trieschman '16, Amanda Clayton '16 and Morgan Zahn '16, shared a few words about the kindness and generosity of their friend and classmate.
The Henry S. Williamson Award went to Morgan Kincade, a religious studies major who is headed to Turkey later this summer on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. In her speech, Kincade spoke about F&M as a place that marks the beginning of growth and maturity in all aspects of its students' lives.
"We didn’t come here so we could feel confident in knowing; we didn’t come here so we could pick out all of our social, political, and religious beliefs, because certainly we don’t know what the future holds and what our place is in that future," Kincade said. "Rather, we came to practice disorientation. We came to reorient ourselves into more active listeners and more thoughtful neighbors."
In addition to the governor, who from the podium waved to his wife, Frances Wolf '96, another vice chair of F&M's board, Porterfield conferred honorary degrees on actress and playwright Nilaja Sun Gordon '96, Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray, and his wife and artist, Gail Gray.
Other graduation honors bestowed went to Professor of Science, Technology and Society James Strick, who received the Bradley R. Dewey Award for Outstanding Scholarship, and Professor of Mathematics Annalisa Crannell, who was presented with the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Three retiring faculty members were honored with Socrates citations: Joseph Karlesky, The Honorable and Mrs. John C. Kunkel Professor of Government, Professor of Sociology Howard Kaye and Associate Professor of Arts James Peterson.
Dick Denlinger, F&M's lead electrician and photographer for the wrestling team, received the Richard Kneedler Distinguished Service Award, given to the member of the professional staff who demonstrates extraordinary commitment to the mission of the College.
With all the symbolism and rite of a centuries-old tradition, Alumni Board President Katie Rouff-Ward '99 passed the torch to the next generation. Senior Class President Anne Dolan '16 accepted on behalf of her peers.
Throughout the morning, guests enjoyed the College's Commencement Wind Ensemble, directed by Brian Norcross, conductor of instrumental ensembles. The ceremony opened with Shi Un Lee '16 singing the national anthem, which was conducted by Benjamin Martin '16. It closed with the alma mater, which was conducted by Gordon Heller '16 and sung by Patrick Montgomery '16.