Remarks of President Kevin Quigley

Good morning and a warm welcome to Marlboro College on this special day to celebrate our remarkable students’ accomplishments and wish them well on their journey ahead. With this beautiful weather, it doesn’t look like it will snow. That would be the first time that it didn’t snow on commencement in my three years here, a streak that I am glad to see broken.

Thank you, Dick, for your tireless service to the college as a long-time trustee and now chairman of the board, leading our community during this time of renewal. On behalf of our soon-to-be graduates, I especially welcome our trustees, my predecessor—Ellen McCullough Lovell—parents, family, friends, faculty, Marlboro neighbors, and other honored guests. A special thank you to all the mothers’ who share their day with us, including my life partner Susan Flaherty.  I also want to thank my many colleagues who helped make this special event happen, especially Dan Cotter and Vanessa Redfield. I also want to recognize a few representatives of the milestone anniversary classes of 1968 and 1993. 

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

I especially want to acknowledge the dedicated service provided by five retiring faculty: Jay Craven in film studies, Cathy Osmond in painting, Lynnette Rummel in politics, Tim Segar in sculpture, and David Underwood in theater. When the graduates open their diploma folder, although they won’t see their diploma—which will be mailed to them, they will see a gift from the retiring faculty in the visual arts.

Today, marks the college’s 71th Commencement and just the third time we have held a joint undergraduate and graduate school commencement here in this splendid space. The grad school moved to the hill in the spring of 2017. It is wonderful to have the grad school united with us here: it enriches our community in so many profound ways. Now, both graduate and undergraduate students can take advantage of this beautiful place built close to nature through 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 learning community (and quoting from the founding prospectus) “at a time when the survival power and value of democracy are challenged, with the intention of developing citizens who will be effective in the task of making American democracy succeed." Seven decades later those words still resonate.  Everywhere we look, democracy appears unfinished and imperfect and that learning to be a good citizen is a never-ending and essential task. In these times, we simply can’t take citizenship—and what it takes for democracy to succeed—for granted.

At Marlboro, our responsibility is to ensure that all students graduate with an academic proficiency, including the ability to conduct research and create original work, analyze and synthesize data, communicate clearly, advocate for themselves, be creative, hear other perspective and manage a complex project like Plan. Perhaps more importantly, we also make every effort to ensure that they have “the habits of the heart” that 19th century French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville suggested were essential for effective, engaged citizenship.

At Marlboro, we are fortunate that community engagement leading to effective citizenship is in our DNA.  At weekly Town Meeting, led by our students, the college community comes together to deliberate and then act on essential community matters, each individual with equal voice and vote. This process is often time-consuming and messy, and not everyone is satisfied with the process or the outcome.  Despite that, Marlboro’s system and culture of community governance offers an unparalleled chance to participate fully in the life of this learning community. Like no other college, our students can learn and then practice the skills needed to be an engaged citizen in a democratic society.

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. And today’s program eloquently catalogues the extraordinary breadth of their interests: exploring ideas about theater, leadership, technology, innovative teaching, identity, painting, the human gut micobiome, art and consumer culture, environmental science, political rhetoric, religious communication, and animal behavior, to name just a few of the Plan and Capstone topics.

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

Our commencement speakers: Fiona Craig, Michael Auerbach, Sara Coffey, and Shaunna Oteka McCovey embody the values of thoughtful citizenship and mindful service to community that are at Marlboro’s very core—and what our times require. In advance, I thank Fiona, Michael, Sara, and Shaunna for what I know will be inspiring words and even more for exemplifying models of citizenship in different communities:  locally, regionally, and nationally. 

So, Dear Graduates, know that all of us gathered here are extremely proud of you and have great expectations for your future. 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 our best envoys letting others know about the impactful quality of a Marlboro education and the difference that can make in helping our democracy succeed. Thank you and congratulations.