Five honorary degree recipients speak at Bates College graduation

0

LEWISTON — The 455 graduating seniors of Bates College’s Class of 2010 got some life lessons from the worlds of hip-hop dance, climate change, cancer research, journalism and literature at Sunday morning’s commencement exercises.

Mild temperatures and sunny skies welcomed parents and friends who came to the 144th Bates commencement from all over the nation and several other countries. The class was almost evenly split by gender with 241 women and 214 men. Diplomas went to 49 Maine graduates.

Five honorary degree recipients representing varied fields of endeavor addressed the graduates, and they all put interesting twists on their advice for life.

Veteran TV journalist Jane Pauley, who is known for her 13-year tenure as co-host of NBC’s “Today” show and 12 years as co-host of “Dateline NBC,” told the graduates, “I wish I had worried less about how more successful I might have been.” She said, “How often we get hung up on what we can’t do. Think about what you can.”

Advertisement

She noted that people make life tough on themselves by making comparisons of their lives to others. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) wished he could put words to stories with the seeming effortlessness of his friend, short story writer Bret Harte, she said, until Clemons realized their skills were similar but functioned differently. Where Clemons relied on numerous re-writes, Harte composed thoroughly in his head before putting pen to paper.

Pauley ended with a wish for the graduates, “May you find inspiration everywhere you look.”

As an influential member of a pioneering member of female broadcasters, Pauley covered many world-changing events such as the fall of the Iron Curtain. She is widely admired for her openness about her personal struggle with bipolar disorder.

She received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Teresa Woodruff, a renowned researcher in exploring how cancer in women affects their ability to have children, received an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Woodruff coined the term “oncofertility” for her work, and she said, “The story of oncofertility is personalized medicine as its best; it is a story of hope and renewal, which is the expectation we all have of research and medicine.”

She advised the Bates graduates to “create your opportunities.” That’s possible, “even in an austere economic climate, and with your Bates education, the methods and decision tools that you’ve honed over the past four years, you are ready to create the modern-day Sputnik, the new way to communicate, new energy solutions or the next medical breakthrough,” Woodruff said.

She also advised the graduates to take advantage of teamwork and to “leverage your optimism.”

James McCarthy, a scientist who is recognized internationally for his ability to communicate the science of climate change, received an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

He emphasized the importance of considering boundaries, and he said, “Balancing on the boundary can be some of the most exciting territory of all. It is the space that people who think of themselves as daring often rush across. But lingering there on the boundary can be especially rewarding. These balanced moments can allow one to grow in understanding of the flow that moves in each direction across the boundary.”

McCarthy said, “My wish for you as you go forward to carve your future and make your mark, is that you will never be daunted by boundaries, that you will find them to be a source of life-enriching discovery.”

An honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree went to Lorenzo “Rennie” Harris, a choreographer noted for bringing hip-hop to the mainstream of dance.

“I’m a big believer in seizing the moment and understanding that the moment only is real. Nothing else is real,” he said.

He told the graduates he has learned that structure is not a guideline, and “we are able to fall off the path and get back on.”

Harris also told the audience, “One of the other insights that came to me was that persistency and consistency win out. As long as I’m persistent and consistent, I will be successful.”

He urged the graduates to remember the three laws of hip-hop — individuality, creativity and innovation.

Harris founded the dance company “Puremovement,” and he established the ability of hip-hop to convey complex ideas with seriousness and eloquence.

The fifth honorary degree conferred at the Bates College commencement was a Doctor of Letters to Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and a 1977 Bates graduate.

“Remember that how you live your life matters” she said, adding that “the best part of what waits for you is that liberating prize of life, those remarkable moments when we understand that we are not the most important person in the world.”

She recalled that her roommate at Bates once said to her, “Life is too interesting to miss.”

Among area graduates in the Bates College Class of 2010 were Emily Elaine Staszak (cum laude), Auburn; Peter Martin MacArthur, Lewiston; Jacob Paul Cash, Norway; and Lisa Ann Hartung and Heidi Louise Judkins, both of Farmington.

Advertisement
SHARE