Senior Speaker: Emma Thacker

Hi, everyone. I am so glad to stand here in the company of my fellow students and friends, faculty and staff, and all of the families that have come to celebrate this day with us, the graduating class of 2014. 

Our education at Marlboro College is implicitly tied to self-directed learning, meaning that much of what we do is individualistic, driven largely by our own personal interests and curiosities. I think that I speak for many of us when I say that I took an array of classes before moving on to more intimate one-on-one tutorials; but the dream of individual attention, of the potential to create our own reading lists, to follow our own academic paths was endlessly intoxicating. The foundations of thought and curiosity surfaced in the classes that I took as a freshman, sophomore, and junior—what I learned in my first three years translated well into what would become my Plan of Concentration.

There is an inherent solitude that accompanies the process of creating a Plan of Concentration. “Being on Plan” demands so much time—so many hours of reading, thinking, and writing. So many hours of editing. So many. Hours, too, are spent processing thoughts with Plan sponsors, discussing the academic journey that you, and only you, have selected to embark upon. Plan is what we all, often impatiently, await—but what is at stake by spending a year so immersed in individual projects?

Although the final year of Marlboro, of working countless hours on my Plan, was a delightful and rewarding challenge, I found myself slowly forgetting the other aspects of Marlboro that make it such a lovely place to spend four years. Individual academic pursuits occupied most of my time this year—and, I imagine, most every other seniors’ time. Plan became the most important part of my day, always on my mind; but Plan is not why I decided to come to Marlboro, and I can now, reflectively, think of it as one stitch in the fabric that is the community of Marlboro College. Where there are so many ways to be drawn into our own academic worlds, there remain, simultaneously, parts of Marlboro that draw us all inseparably together. 

Today, I want to talk about a particular part of Marlboro that we all share, but often goes unnoticed. We traverse various academic paths, but the spaces we share quietly bring us together.

I came to Marlboro because I thought it was beautiful. I visited for the first time on a snowy, cold day in the month of February, and fell in love with the buildings, their roofs caked with snow, the trees covered in icicles, the students walking paths slippery with slush. I loved how small and humbled I felt standing on this hill, just one among many here in southern Vermont. 

I continue to feel overwhelmed by the beauty of Marlboro, Vermont. There are mornings when I stand on South Road, looking away from Marlboro, at the mountains in the distance, and it is so unbelievable gorgeous that I can’t do anything for a moment but stare in awe of the place that I go to school. The undeveloped landscape—so rare, and so precious.

And then there are the spaces that we all occupy, that are beautiful because we all pass through them at one time or another. There is the dining hall, where students, faculty, and staff congregate for meals, for Town Meeting, for events like the annual President’s Ball. I can’t imagine that any one of you hasn’t spent time sipping a cup of tea or coffee, gazing out the window at people walking down from Dalrymple after class, anticipating a wave of people to suddenly enter what has been an otherwise quiet space. There is the “OP hill,” where we sit, engaging in conversation, napping in the sun, playing with whatever dog sits outside the OP for the day. There is the library balcony, which possesses, arguably, the best view on campus. The library, itself, where students spend countless hours pouring over books, trading ideas, and pulling dreaded and celebrated all-nighters. Dalrymple, where most of us will have at least one or two classes, where many of us sat in our orals, completed our Plans of Concentration.

And, of course, the woods that surround us--the landmarks like the stone circle and the tree houses and the trails to be walked or skied in the winter. 

This is what we share. This choice to live on a beautiful little hill in the middle of nowhere, the spaces that we return to day after day. I’ve found myself forgetting how much I love Marlboro’s landscape. And although my life has become enriched in so many ways since my first days here, it is the beauty of Marlboro that remains the most consistent and overwhelming part of my experience here.

I am sad to leave this beautiful hill. I feel such a deep fondness for everyone with whom I am graduating, for the professors, the staff, and all of the students who have years to go. But I am happy to know that this hill will continue to exist, will continue to hold that spaces that I hold so dear. I love you, Marlboro.