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
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
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.