In wake of Friday ceremony, Hampshire College graduates 214 online

  • Hampshire College senior Rosaly Cruz celebrates her graduation Friday at the college in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Michele Hardesty, a professor at Hampshire College, leads graduating seniors through a column of flags during a ceremony at the college in Amherst, Friday, for students and faculty where students got to walk across stage and ring the bell, a Hampshire tradition. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Graduating Hampshire College seniors walk through a column of flags during a ceremony Friday for students and faculty where students got to walk across stage and ring the bell, a Hampshire tradition, in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A Skelton that one of the graduating Hampshire College seniors carried with him during a ceremony held Friday May 14, 2021, for students and faculty where students got to walk across stage, receive pieces of paper resembling diplomas and ring the bell, a Hampshire tradition. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Justin Gall, a graduating Hampshire College senior celebrates graduating during a ceremony held Friday May 14, 2021, for students and faculty where students names were called and they received pieces of paper resembling diplomas. Students walked across stage then rang the bell, a Hampshire tradition. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sophia Kobar, a graduating Hampshire College senior celebrates graduating during a ceremony held Friday May 14, 2021, for students and faculty where students names were called and they received pieces of paper resembling diplomas. Students walked across stage then rang the bell, a Hampshire tradition. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A group shot of graduating Hampshire College senior's celebrating graduating during a ceremony held Friday May 14, 2021, for students and faculty where students names were called and they received pieces of paper resembling diplomas. Students walked across stage then rang the bell, a Hampshire tradition. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 5/16/2021 6:22:18 PM

AMHERST — After a year of remote and in-person learning, COVID-19 restrictions and required weekly testing for all students, Hampshire College officially graduated its class of 2021 on Saturday.

The ceremony honored 214 students who graduated from Hampshire this year. Although the college operated with hybrid in-person and remote activities this semester, the commencement ceremony was online. It was made available to students and their families via Zoom and streamed on the College’s YouTube and Facebook channels.

COVID-19 was an unavoidable topic throughout the ceremony — every speaker mentioned the particular challenges faced by the class due to the ongoing pandemic.

“Every one of you was given the opportunity to fail. Every excuse to give up, and every reason to take an easier path,” college President Ed Wingenbach said in his address to the graduates. “You persisted.”

Student speakers also emphasized the pandemic-imposed challenges they faced this year, cheering themselves and their peers for finally crossing the imaginary finish line created by the online space.

The tenacity of Hampshire College as an institution was also a key theme for the graduation, as speakers painfully remembered the college’s brief plans to shut down due to budgetary concerns in 2019.

“Hampshire College is still here because many of you insisted that it must be,” Wingenbach said to graduating students in his speech. “And because of the passions, effort and commitment of both you and a broader community that loves what this college and this college alone stands for, Hampshire will be here in another 50 years, when you return to celebrate our 100th anniversary.”

Graduating students used the online ceremony to celebrate their own relationships with each other, which were formed and reformed over their time in college. One student speaker, Elías Magdalena Alejo, was elected for the ceremony. When it came time for Alejo to speak, though, she surprised the audience.

“It’s odd, and I say this very loosely, to find ourselves in another year of virtual celebration,” Alejo began. “In spirit of that oddness, I’m here to let you know that I will not be the only one taking the stage as student speaker today.”

Three other graduating seniors who had entered and lost the student speaker competition also gave brief speeches during the virtual ceremony, each sharing personal stories about education, social justice and collective responsibility.

Mikkey Inman told her classmates, “My only hope is that you take time to be proud of yourself on the way to your next destination.”

Avery Lopez, who identified herself as a first-generation college graduate, performed an excerpt from Shane Koyczan’s spoken word poem “How To Be A Person” using American sign language.

Chynna Aming refocused the ceremony back to social justice, urging her peers to use their education to fight for human rights after graduation. “As we take the fire to change the world with us out of these doors, I ask just one thing: show up for those who will create the world you want to live in,” she said.

After their addresses were over, Alejo took the stage once more to give her final speech. “I want to speak to the broader public, not only the students,” she said. “Is the life you’re leading, living, creating or making one that builds another world — one that holds a better tomorrow — or are you simply watching out for yourself?” She called for mass cooperation and urged listeners to interrogate their personal biases.

The conferral of the degrees followed, in the form of a colorful PowerPoint presentation listing each graduate’s name, degree and a hand-picked quote. The slides matched the event’s online poster, which showcased an artistic interpretation of people making a community around the seal of Hampshire College and was designed by 2021 graduate Connor Honey B. Dandy.

To end the program, Wingenbach congratulated the graduating class again and post office assistant Jim Pattem officially closed the ceremony. A slideshow of graduating seniors ringing the campus bell — a right reserved for alumni — followed, along with a comments section bursting with congratulations.




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