May 11, 2012
Inspirational speaker and acclaimed singer Wintley Phipps, Wheelock's Graduate Commencement Speaker, told graduating students they are about to march into a battle against ignorance, but said they are up for the challenge.
"There is a light of optimism shining in your eyes," Phipps told the graduates. "Don't ever lose it. Some child will need it."
Phipps, who has performed around the world and for seven U.S. presidents, opened his remarks with a rousing rendition of the Tom Jones' song "I Believe." He described how he came to found the U.S. Dream Academy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children who have had a family member incarcerated, after meeting former Watergate conspirator Chuck Colson and learning about Colson's prison ministries. "You never know whose life you are going to touch," Phipps said.
Phipps said Wheelock graduates are bound together by a gene that he called HPLP or "Helping People Live Their Potential." "It's not an easy calling," he said. "but it's in your DNA."
Graduate Student Speaker Thomas W. Bentley, told the graduates that Wheelock is a unique institution that has held onto its core values for 125 years and that it will continue to be an invaluable institution " so long as there are children to teach and families that struggle." He said his fellow graduates' capacity for doing good is limitless, especially when they work together. "We rely on each other as we blaze a path to do more plentiful good," he said.
Wheelock held two separate Commencement ceremonies for the first time this year, both on Friday, May 11, 2012. The need for the dual ceremonies arose because of Wheelock's increasing success in the number of seniors and graduate students participating in each year's Commencement Ceremony.
Earlier in the day, at the separate Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony, acclaimed actor Jane Alexander encouraged graduating students to "keep the arts in education" and in their own lives.
"The arts awaken us to our own possibilities," she said. "Arts are often the first to go during a budget crunch in our schools. But kids are bubbling over with energy and the desire to connect themselves to something meaningful to them....When a child is taught to sing, she is taught to listen. When we teach her to draw, she learns to see."
Alexander cautioned the graduates about the overuse of new technology such as cellphones and online games, saying, "With every advance, there is a loss. For every hour online, we lose an hour for something else....Playing games on the Internet, as I do, with opponents who may be in Kazakhstan or elsewhere in the world is no substitute for my father's laughter across the table as we played backgammon."
Undergraduate Student Speaker Tamara Pace-Emerson told her fellow graduates that their lives at Wheelock had a times felt like a hero's journey, complete with numerous challenges, monster classes to be slayed, and, ultimately, success. She encouraged each graduate to make a difference in someone's life, saying those actions will ripple out across society. "I am inspired to think of the good you will enact...as you become the best teacher, social worker, child life advocate, and all of the other specialties that will cross the stage today," she said. ""Thank you for all you will do in the future."
At the Undergraduate Ceremony, honorary degrees were awarded to Ms. Alexander, as well as Mr. Phipps, and award-winning children's book author and advocate for children's literacy Ms. Kathryn Lasky '78MS. The College also honored retiring Arts and Educator Professor Susan Kosoff, Associate Professor of Arts and Humanities Mary Battenfeld, and Associate Professor of Human Development Tina Durand.