Remarks of President Kevin Quigley

Thank you, Dick, for your tireless service to the College as Chairman of the Board, leading our community during this time of challenge and re-imagination. 

Good morning and a warm welcome to Marlboro College to celebrate our remarkable students’ accomplishments and wish them well on their journey ahead. 

On behalf of our soon-to-be graduates, I especially welcome family, friends, faculty, faculty emeriti, alumni, and other honored guests, including the college’s trustees.  A special welcome and thank you to all the mothers who share their day with us.  

Thank you all for being here for this event of recognition and gratitude. Today marks the end of a cycle, a cycle punctuated by poignant “Marlboro” moments and innumerable memorable experiences including: Bridges Trips, Hogwarts Dinners, Midnight Breakfasts, Town Meetings, Writing Portfolios, Broomball Tournaments, Wendell-Judd Cups, Work Days, and Oral Exams.

Before we begin, I want to acknowledge the dedicated service provided by our long-serving retiring faculty: Meg Mott in Politics, John Sheehy in Writing, and John Willis in Photography. Meg, John, and John, thank you for all you have done for our students and the college. We will miss you, but take comfort that all of you will continue to be close by.

Today marks the college’s 72th commencement and just the fourth time we have held a joint undergraduate and graduate school commencement here in this splendid space. Since the grad school moved to the hill two years ago, both graduate and undergraduate students can now take advantage of this beautiful place built close to nature by the hard work of our pioneering students, faculty, and staff. 

Marlboro College’s founder, as many of you know, was inspired by his poetry teacher at Amherst, Robert Frost. Walter Hendricks came to this “clearing in the wood” to create a small, intentional, progressive, and innovative learning community. Marlboro’s unique approach to learning was built around two profound ideas Hendricks learned from Frost: education by presence and an atmosphere of expectations. In this Frostian approach, students work alongside their professors, and the expectation is that they are partners in learning.

This past year, the faculty developed what we call “The Marlboro Promise,” which succinctly expresses what we do here at Marlboro. The Promise is built around three things:  1) writing clearly, 2) living in a community, and 3) taking a big idea from conception to execution, e.g. Plan of Concentration.    

One of the great joys of living and working at Marlboro is to witness our students live their passions, learn new skills and grow into engaged citizens. Like a parent who is never supposed to make comparisons among children, at some risk I want to say: this graduating class is especially dear to me. We came to Marlboro at the same time and have learned so much together. 

Today’s program eloquently catalogues the extraordinary breadth of their interests. To name just a few: the economics of unemployment in France, holistic education, sustainable agriculture, Christian understanding of suffering, anti-immigrant sentiment, economics of wellbeing, carnivore ecology, ceramic sculpture and cool Japan, approaches to gender, statistical and machine learning, and distributed networking.

Graduates, as you take this next step, the task of creating generative communities and lives of purpose lies before you. Given what you have learned here and how you have learned it, I believe that you are well prepared to become thoughtful and creatively engaged citizens, connected to community, who will play a critical role in helping our democracy experience a needed rebirth. 

Today’s commencement speakers and honorary degree awardees—Sean Coles ’93, Emily Mason and Trustee Wolf Kahn—embody the passionate creativity, thoughtful citizenship, and mindful service to community that are at Marlboro’s very core—and what our times require.

In advance, I thank them for what will certainly be inspiring words and even more for exemplifying models of creative engagement in different communities: locally, regionally, and nationally. 

So, dear graduates of 2019, we came to Potash Hill together, please know that all of us gathered here are extremely proud of you and have great expectations for your future. My thoughts will always be with you.

Strive to make the most out of what you have learned here, keep close to each other, and please stay connected to the college. Your college and country need you. We need you to be great envoys letting others know about the promise of a Marlboro education and the difference that can make in helping our communities succeed and democracy flourish. Thank you and congratulations.