5/13/2017 Peter Durantine

Speaker Tells Graduates to Embrace the Change in an Ever-Changing World

As a change agent herself, Wanda Austin ’75 shared an essential wisdom with graduates at Franklin & Marshall College’s May 13 Commencement—that the one constant in a changing world is change itself.

“I am confident that each of you will accomplish great things as you fulfill your own personal and professional missions,” said Austin, an aerospace pioneer and one of the first African-American women to graduate from F&M. “The one thing I can promise you is that whatever your strategy is, the world around you is going to change.”

Austin, whose academic and career trajectory took her from the Bronx High School of Science in New York City to the worldwide Aerospace Corp. to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, urged F&M’s 573 graduates to embrace change, not fear it.

“As you embark on this next chapter in your life, know that you have been prepared to address the changes that the future will bring, but keep in mind that with every change, there will be challenges, and with every challenge, you have a choice,” she said. “When one door closes, look around to find and prepare for the one that is about to open.” 

SLIDESHOW: Commencement Ceremony 
  • Franklin & Marshall College President Daniel R. Porterfield and the platform party look out upon a sea of new graduates during the May 13 Commencement ceremony at F&M. Image Credit: Eric Forberger
  • Graduating senior Donnell Bailey strikes a relaxed pose in the minutes running up to the beginning of Saturday's Commencement ceremony. Image Credit: Eric Forberger
  • Dean Hammer, The John W. Wetzel Professor of Classics and Professor of Government and don of New College House, captures a photo of some graduating seniors. Image Credit: Eric Forberger
  • Franklin & Marshal College President Daniel R. Porterfield, tells the members of the Class of 2017 that their education will serve them well in the years after College. "Because change is life, your F&M education will be ever alive, ever-empowering, ever-relevant, ever-important, ever-renewing," he said. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • Dr. Wanda Austin delivers the Commencement address May 13. Austin, a 1975 graduate of Franklin & Marshall, is an engineer who recently retired as head of Aerospace Corp., one of the nation's leading aerospace research centers for defense-related space programs. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • In what has become an annual tradition at Commencement, students put creative touches and inspiring messages on their mortarboards. Image Credit: Eric Forberger
  • Exuberant members of F&M's Class of 2017 snap photos of their friends receiving their diplomas during the May 13 Commencement ceremony. Image Credit: Eric Forberger
  • Williamson Medal winner and senior Tekla Iashagashvili addresses her fellow graduates during Commencement May 13. The medal is F&M's highest student award, presented annually to the outstanding senior of the graduating class. The award is named in honor of Henry S. Williamson (1853-1917), a Lancaster businessman, philanthropist and member of the College's Board of Trustees. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • Eager soon-to-be-graduates line up to receive their diplomas during F&M's Commencement ceremony. Image Credit: Eric Forberger
  • Following the ceremony, a group of graduates snaps a quick selfie outside the Alumni Sports & Fitness Center. Image Credit: Eric Forberger

Spring rains moved the ceremony from the College’s traditional staging area of Hartman Green to inside the Alumni Sports & Fitness Center. The occasion was brightened by the spirit and excitement felt by the members of the Class of 2017 and an estimated 3,000 family members and friends in attendance.

In his speech, F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield told the graduates, including 76 international and 95 first-generation students, that their College experience has shaped them for the future.

“You have put your labor and love into these years – you’ve given and grown in ways now grafted into who you are,” Porterfield said. “I believe that you will feel the flame of Franklin & Marshall College, kindled here, burning inside of you for the rest of your lives.”

The Henry S. Williamson Award, the College's most prestigious award for student achievement, went to Tekla Iashagashvili, a double major in business, organizations and society and in sociology. Her academic research, on how museums create sociocultural and political narratives through public texts and layouts, took her to Paris and Italy to explore her thesis.

“The process of discovery and learning is driven by uncertainty. It is what gives the pursuit of knowledge such an appeal,” Iashagashvili said in her Commencement speech. “It is the unknown that is most fascinating to explore because of its promise and its potential to help us learn about our own selves and the world around us.”

Porterfield conferred honorary degrees to former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas '89, who served from 2010 to 2015 as the Pentagon's top official overseeing military relations with Russia and Ukraine, and Donald Graham, the former publisher of The Washington Post and co-founder of TheDream.Us, a national scholarship program for students who qualify under the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAMers). 

Austin received an honorary degree from F&M in 2012. 

SLIDESHOW: Prelude to Graduation  
  • Members of the Class of 2017 gather for the Senior Toast May 11 in the Alumni Sports & Fitness Center. During the event, the class presented its gift to the College, a check for more than $4,500. Nearly three-quarters of the seniors made a gift. Image Credit: Eric Forberger
  • Sixty members of the Class of 2017, along with four members of the Class of 2018, are inducted into Phi Beta Kappa May 12 in Roschel Performing Arts Center's Schnader Theatre. Phi Beta Kappa is one of the nation's most prestigious honor societies, celebrating excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • On May 12, the day before Commencement, members of the Class of 2017 gather in F&M's Alumni Sports & Fitness Center to rehearse for their big day. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • On a rainy Saturday morning, Franklin & Marshall seniors and their families and friends make their way to the Alumni Sports & Fitness Center for the College's Commencement ceremony. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • Members of the Class of 2017 are formally welcomed into F&M's African-American Alumni Council (AAAC). The council was founded in 1989. Membership is open to all F&M students and graduates of color. Image Credit: Eric Forberger

Other graduation honors bestowed went to Professor of Astronomy Andrea Lommen, who received the Bradley R. Dewey Award for Outstanding Scholarship, and Professor of Legal Studies Jeffrey Nesteruk, who earned the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Four retiring faculty members were honored: Associate Professor of Government Robert J. Friedrich, Professor of Physics and Astronomy Linda Fritz, Jeffrey Steinbrink, Alumni Professor of English Literature and American Belles Lettres, and Donald Grier Stephenson, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Government. 

Tami Lantz, an academic coordinator for the departments of economics and religious studies as well as the Africana Studies and Judaic Studies programs, 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.

The symbolic passing of the torch was conducted by Christine Corkran Kretkowski ’05, president of the Franklin & Marshall Alumni Association, and Christiana Jueng ’17, senior class president.

Throughout the morning, guests enjoyed the College's Commencement Wind Ensemble, directed by Brian Norcross, conductor of instrumental ensembles. The ceremony opened with soprano Rebecca Branovan ’17 singing the national anthem as Ailee Rowe ’17 conducted. It concluded with Hyun Hyung An ’17 conducting Franklin & Marshall’s alma mater and Chang Hee Han ’17 singing baritone.

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