Remarks of President Kevin Quigley

Good morning and welcome to Marlboro College on this special day to celebrate our remarkable students’ accomplishment. With today’s flurries, I now know that snow is part of the Marlboro Commencement tradition.

I especially welcome our trustees, past president Ellen McCullough-Lovell, parents, family members, friends, faculty, emerti faculty, Marlboro neighbors, and other honored guests. And most important of all, members of the class of 2016.

I begin by expressing deep gratitude to the parents, family members, faculty, staff, and students who helped these very soon-to-be-graduates succeed. Many students have said that they would not have made it without your loving support. They, and I, thank you.

Today marks the start of a new Marlboro tradition, a joint undergraduate and graduate school commencement. These two programs, while in different locations—by the banks of the Connecticut River and here at Potash Hill—share so much more than the Marlboro name. Both program traditions are rooted in the very soil here. Seventy years ago our founder, Walter Hendricks, created this innovative college on the site of his family farm and influenced by the collegial relationship with his teacher at Amherst, our first trustee and among the most renowned American poets, Robert Frost. 

In the very first College Bulletin, Walter wrote, “Here at Marlboro, learning and living are interrelated, with courses of instruction so arranged and community life so conducted that the relevance of what is taught and what is done becomes manifest to the students….it is simply an embodiment of a common sense approach to the question of educational procedures in democratic America, where education is not a class privilege, but a natural and fundamental process in the training of a free citizenry.”

In both programs, learning and living continue to be interrelated, and what the students learn is natural and directly contributes to their ability to become effective and engaged citizens in communities, wherever they chose to go on life’s path. Our undergraduate students embrace creativity and assiduously pursue their intellectual passions in interdisciplinary ways, forging new understandings, insights and habits of inquiry and community practice that will inform the course of their lives. Our graduate school students are individuals who devote their collective talents toward shaping a better world in which they apply their passion, intelligence, and courage to address real-world issues and practice visionary leadership. Both programs infuse a deep sense of membership in a distinctive learning community and enable careers of purpose and enrich lives–creating ripples of influence spreading out from Southern Vermont, across the nation, and around the world, wherever our alumni make their mark.

Today is also a special day for me, my first opportunity to serve in this role at commencement here on the Hill. Now, as I near the end of my first year as part of this distinctive and entirely irrepressible learning community nestled in these beautiful green hills of Southern Vermont, I wonder at a year of change and revitalization. The spark that most clearly lit the fire of change is the Renaissance Scholars Program.  Begun last summer, this program sought and found students from across the nation who possess intense intellectual passions, a desire to make the world better than they found it, and the tenacity to realize their most ambitious goals.

This Scholars program engendered parallel renaissance efforts among the faculty, staff, students and even our Board of Trustees.  Each invaluable part of our community is considering how best to adapt to today’s challenging circumstances, while fostering the ideal learning community consistent with our traditions and community values and responsive to our country and world’s enduring need for an engaged citizenry.

Working with this learning community over the past year, I have emphasized three themes relating to our educational mission and linking to our values, especially the importance that Marlboro places on community. Those three themes are: community service, social innovation, and stewardship. 

Our commencement speakers, Laura—more affectionately known as “Rainbow,” Stakiwicz, Heidi Doyle, Nadinne Cruz, and Bob Gard, as you will soon hear, embody the values of creativity, service to community, social innovation and stewardship that are at Marlboro’s very core. I thank Rainbow, Heidi, Bob, and Nadinne, in advance for what I know will be inspiring words and even more for their exemplary lives. 

Most importantly, on this your day, I want to congratulate the graduates of the class of 2016. One of the great joys of being at Marlboro is to witness your learning and growth.  I am awed by how creatively you pursue your intellectual interests and how imaginatively and informatively you have shared what you have learned with the Marlboro community through Capstone projects, theater and dance performances, music recitals, visual arts shows, and Plan presentations. It is truly impressive to see the imaginative character and inspiring talent of our students, and how well they are coached, supported, and inspired by our dedicated faculty. I know that I speak for everyone here that we are extremely proud of you and have great expectations for all of our new graduates.

So, dear graduates, strive to make the most out of what you have learned here, keep close to each other, and please stay connected to the College.  We need you to be our best envoys, letting others know about the distinctive quality of a Marlboro education and the difference that can make. Heartfelt congratulations and warmest wishes for every success and satisfaction that life can offer.