5/12/2012 Chris Karlesky

Bloomberg to Graduating Seniors: ‘Be independent thinkers’

  • Mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg delivers the Commencement address at Franklin & Marshall College on May 12. Bloomberg encouraged F&M’s Class of 2012 to live up to the spirit of independence and service embodied by the school’s namesakes, Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin and John Marshall. (Photo by Eric Forberger)

View a video replay of Franklin & Marshall’s 2012 Commencement ceremony under the “On Demand” tab of the College’s webcasting portal.

On a sun-splashed Commencement at Franklin & Marshall College, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg urged F&M’s Class of 2012 to live up to the spirit of independence and service embodied by the school’s namesakes: Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin and John Marshall.

“Take an idea–and then turn it on its head,” Bloomberg said in his Commencement address. “After all, if Ben Franklin had accepted the way things were, we might still be turning on the lights with a match…It may be lonely at times, it may make you unpopular at times, and it may be dangerous to your career. But independence lies at the heart of innovation, progress and pride. So the next time someone tells you why something can’t be done, or why something is the best idea or the worst idea, remember Ben Franklin and his spirit of independence.”

Bloomberg addressed 554 members of F&M’s Class of 2012 and several thousand guests on Hartman Green in the center of campus during the College’s 225th Commencement ceremony on May 12. Elected mayor in November 2001, Bloomberg spoke of a career in politics, business and philanthropy, encouraging members of the graduating class to make time for community service in their futures.

“The thrills that really stay with you forever—I’m sure many of you know—are the ones you get from giving back to your community,” Bloomberg said. “And as someone who is in the position to see up-close the real impact of public service by millions of New Yorkers, I can tell you that every minute of service helps in more ways than you can count.”

The proceedings marked the second F&M Commencement for President Daniel R. Porterfield. Porterfield asked the graduates to remember the ways in which they “made meaning” at F&M, highlighting moments “when it all comes together, when it all feels right, when our hopes and words and deeds fuse as one.”

“[T.S.] Eliot called these moments ‘the still points of a turning world,’” Porterfield said. “We expect that you will seek and find such stillness again, often in joy and love, and sometimes, too, in pain. And when you do, we hope that you’ll be transported right back here to this campus, to these years, to this time, to this community, and feel a sense of continuity and wholeness.”

Full Commencement remarks from Bloomberg and Porterfield are available online.

  • Members of F&M's Class of 2012 enjoyed a sun-splashed day on Hartman Green for their Commencement festivities. (Photo by Eric Forberger)

F&M Students, Faculty Members Receive Honors

The College conferred many annual awards, including the highest recognition for students, faculty members and professional staff.

Judith Stapleton ’12, an art history major and Italian minor at F&M, addressed her fellow graduates as the 2012 winner of the Williamson Medal, the College’s highest award for a graduating senior. A summa cum laude graduate, Stapleton received her award from Dean of the College Kent Trachte.

“Judith, we admire your serious yet playful intellect, your selfless style of leadership and the character of the relationships that you have built while a student,” Trachte said. “You clearly exemplify the qualities of intellect, creativity and character that the College seeks to foster in its students.”

Stapleton, a native of the United Kingdom, recounted coming to the United States in grade school, and how she never imagined she would graduate from a school like F&M.

“I feel deeply honored and proud to receive this award," Stapleton said. "Thinking back to those in Glasgow who thirsted for opportunities they would never have been able to receive made me realize that my time here at Franklin & Marshall has been a privilege.”

F&M honored Professor of Philosophy Bennett Helm with the Bradley R. Dewey Award for Outstanding Scholarship. Gregory S. Adkins, the William G. and Elizabeth R. Simeral Professor of Physics, received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. The College also honored three retiring faculty members with Socrates citations: Bruce Gustafson, Charles A. Dana Professor of Music; Carl S. Pike, Harry W. and Mary B. Huffnagle Professor of Botany; and James M. Taggart, Lewis Audenreid Professor of History and Archaeology.

Dan Lewis, F&M’s director of housekeeping and College House facilities, received the Richard Kneedler Distinguished Service Award. Stephanie Nelson-Dennis, assistant principal at Mary E. Rodman Elementary School in Baltimore and former teacher at Northern Senior High School, received F&M’s inaugural High School Teacher Award.

In addition to Bloomberg, receiving honorary degrees were Wanda M. (Pompey) Austin ’75, president and CEO of The Aerospace Corp.; Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in the field of virtual reality; and Lynn Nottage, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and recipient of a 2007 MacArthur Fellowship, informally known as a "genius grant."

F&M’s Class of 2012 includes 18 students who graduated with summa cum laude honors, 61 with magna cum laude honors and 86 with cum laude honors. Forty-three students received departmental honors.

To view photos from Commencement Day, visit F&M’s Commencement gallery on Flickr.

Information about ordering Commencement photos and DVDs is available online.

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