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Williams College 217th Commencement:"Make Every Day Remarkable"By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Sunday, June 04, 2006
Williamstown - Parents, friends, and other guests snuggled themselves inside purple ponchos against a persistent June 4 morning drizzle that misted over the 217th Williams College commencement and gently showered the Class of 2006.
The light rain did not force the ceremony to indoor quarters and 517 seniors were awarded bachelor's degrees by college President Morton O. Schapiro during a West Lawn graduation that included a traditional procession led by Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiamo.
Master's degrees were presented to 14 History of Art program students and 27 Center for Development Economics fellows.
Estimates put the number of graduation spectators at about 4,500 individuals.
As the procession wound its' way from the First Year Quad, crossed Main Street and followed a concrete walkway that led to the lawn, cheers and applause erupted.
A commencement address titled "Devoted to Commitment" was delivered by the African American Dance Ensemble founder and Artistic Director Chuck Davis.
Davis encouraged the graduates to greet the world outside of college and "learn who is there. Awareness brings respect and unity." Davis offered a quick tutelage focused on a few African greetings and as commencement spectators responded vocally to Davis' chants, Davis danced.
The impromptu performance and group participation acted as a warm and lighthearted ice-breaker for those in the audience.
Class Speaker Evan M. Miller delivered a speech titled "What Does Williams Mean To You?" and Phi Beta Kappa Speaker Rosemary F. Smith titled her speech "Containing Little Or Nothing."
A Slower, Truer, Kindness
Class Valedictorian Marcus M. Duyzend suggested that his classmates forgo any presumed need for speed as they progress through their lives during his "Looking Out, Looking In" remarks.
Duyzend recalled his days as a Boy Scout, and the frequent presence of an older gentlemen who was the father of another scout and who very much enjoyed joining the scout troop on hikes.
While the man was in excellent physical condition, Duyzend said, he couldn't keep pace with the younger, more vigorous scouts who "would charge ahead, pausing only at trail junctions and for an occasional pit stop. Attempts to restrain them typically failed."
Duyzend said that initially, he, too, would dash ahead and leave the older hiker to himself. However, he began to feel badly about leaving the man alone to walk all by himself, and Duyzend began to share the man's slower pace and accompany him on the hikes.
The good deed wasn't without reward, Duyzend said.
Lessons And Leadership
"Not only did I feel good about making the dad feel like a part of the group rather than like unwanted baggage, but I also learned to appreciate the landscape we were walking through," Duyzend said. "The slower, more relaxed pace opened my eyes to things I would otherwise have missed, and my new hiking partner turned out to be a knowledgeable naturalist."
The older man taught Duyzend a tremendous amount about the land and native plants.
"I arrived at campsites and lunch spots more energized, less sore, and much more informed than the others, who had nothing to show for their excessive speed but a few minutes more time to refresh their unnecessarily overworked bodies."
Duyzend said he'd been prepared to accept some ribbing and teasing because of his decision to befriend the elderly man. The man's slower hiking gait had been the catalyst for complaints and jokes, he noted. But the teasing didn't come about.
"Instead, my decision gained me nothing but respect from the other scouts. They even chose me as their leader for several weeklong trips we had planned for the following year."
The youthful lessons learned by slowing down and finding common ground with another could serve the Class of 2006 well as they emerge from dorms, classrooms, and campuses into life after college, Duyzend said.
"Focus On The 80 Percent of Your Life That Is Great"
"Too many of us think we need to rush ahead, to compete for the top positions, to leave some mark on the world," he said. "This is a mistake that will only make us sore and tired. Far better to look within ourselves and do what we feel is right, even if at the outset, that appears to put us at the back of the pack."
The future is an unknown chapter of a tale that is yet to be penned, he said.
"The real work begins today." Williamstown Theater Festival Director Roger Rees, during June 3 Baccalaureate address
"We may end up affecting one person's life, or we end up shaking up the world. We may become powerful leaders or we may find ourselves leading a quiet existence. It is hard to know exactly where our hearts will take us, but it is easy to see that following the on path they lead us is a sure way to happy, fulfilling lives."
Avoid a phony, frenzied existence, Duyzend said.
"Authenticity will take you farther and make you happier than any attempt to fit some artificial image."
Trust instincts, he advised.
"Follow your gut feelings. Seek the advice of others - different considerations often come into focus when things are viewed from different perspectives-but do not feel compelled to follow it, no matter how much you respect its' source. Only you know what the right decisions are for you."
Find pursuits that bring true joy, he urged.
"Spend your life doing things that you enjoy. Do not waste your years slogging through work you find menial, even if you are good at it, even if it is considered prestigious, even if it offers tempting perks."
Accept life's challenges and disappointments, but do not allow them to rule, he said.
"Why be finished-where's the fun in that? Great cities are never finished. Nothing sits. Except your dog; and look how anxious he is to get on with things." Roger Rees, Baccalaureate address
"There will be times of loss, of difficulty,of tedium. But keep a positive, upbeat attitude. Enjoy each minute for what it is. Focus on the 80 percent of your life that is great. Don't let the 20 percent that is not bring you down."
Remember that "today" matters every bit as much as "tomorrow," he said.
"Remember that every day is a part of your life. Treat it as such. Think about the future but do not make a habit of sacrificing your happiness today for the tasks of tomorrow. Don't live just for special occasions. Make every day remarkable."
Duyzend's final advice was to be true to self.
"As you try to discern your place in the world, do not just look outward. It is only by also looking inward, and being true to the self you discover, that you will enjoy a meaningful and joyful life."
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-823-9367.