Social, political responsibility stressed for Mount Holyoke grads

  • Barbara Smith, who received a honorary doctor of humane letters degree, speaks during commencement, Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Mount Holyoke College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Zashira Arias celebrates after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Mount Holyoke College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Margaret Meotti celebrates after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Mount Holyoke College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kerstin Lindgren, front, applauds during a speech by Barbara Smith during commencement, Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Mount Holyoke College. Smith received a honorary doctor of humane letters degree. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Gail Karen Joseph, center, and other graduates applaud during a speech by Barbara Smith during commencement, Sunday, at Mount Holyoke College. Smith received a honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Joseph received master’s degree in teaching. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Gary Younge, who received a honorary doctor of humane letters degree, speaks during commencement, Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Mount Holyoke College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Inayat Gill waves to the audience after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Mount Holyoke College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Melissa Jo Stewart celebrates after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Mount Holyoke College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Kannah Yimdah Landford celebrates after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, at Mount Holyoke College. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Sue Shi celebrates after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Mount Holyoke College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Melissa Ann Carney, right, receives her diploma from President Sonya Stephens during commencement, Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Mount Holyoke College. She is with her seeing eye dog, Aron. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduates smile at the end of commencement, Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Mount Holyoke College. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Margarita Conation Tenisi wears a lei made by her brother and sister for her commencement, Sunday, May 19, 2019 at Mount Holyoke College. It is a Tongan tradition. Tonga is an island in the South Pacific. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 5/19/2019 11:46:24 PM

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported Barbara Smith’s last name.

SOUTH HADLEY — Parents relatives, friends, and well-wishers filled the Field House of the Kendall Sports and Dance Complex on Sunday for Mount Holyoke College’s 182nd commencement.

Amid tears of joy and cheers of excitement, more than 500 undergraduates and 67 master’s degree candidates received their diplomas on Sunday.

In their commencement speeches, business leader and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht, class of ’63 author, activist and scholar Barbara Smith, class of ’69, and author and broadcaster Gary Younge stressed the importance of responsibility, social and political activism, changing systemic oppression and living your best life.

Smith, a black lesbian feminist, reminded those gathered that it wasn’t that long ago that racial and gender inequalities were the norm, and that it was multiple grassroots movements that brought about positive change.

She cited a host of reforms that have been born out of radical grassroots movements, including the abolition of slavery, social security, women’s suffrage, the 40-hour workweek, civil rights, and gay and disability rights.

“These were all viewed as radical until they were not,” she said.

Though progress has been made, Smith told the graduates that the “planet is on fire” as things like inequality, global poverty, unspeakable acts of violence motivated by racism anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia are on the rise.

Smith said it’s not just political activists who can speak out against injustice.

“Now, more than ever, we need people who are willing to call out injustice,” she said. “We need you to make a difference where you are, and I cannot imagine people better equipped to do that than the remarkable Mount Holyoke graduates of 2019.”

In her remarks, Arsht said that doing the right thing is not always easy, but that it is our individual and collective responsibility to rise to the occasion.

She then quoted Edmund Burke, saying, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.”

“Please take that with you and use it every day when you decide what you are going to do with your life,” she said. “Make sure that you stand up for what is right, because if you don’t, who will?”

For Younge, seeing people doing the right thing began with his mother, whom he described as a strong, working-class immigrant from Barbados living in London who had to fight against racism while raising Younge and his brother on her own.

While he congratulated the graduates on their success, he reminded them that strong women have worked hard to pave the way for them.

“You didn’t get here on your own, exactly — parents, carers and teachers were involved,” he said. “Women, in particular, fought and died so that you might pursue your education.”

The field house erupted into wild applause after each speaker ended their remarks.

Two proud parents, Mark Gliniewicz and Cheryl Bickford of Maine, couldn’t stop beaming while speaking about their only daughter, 21-year-old Emilly Gliniewicz, a biochemistry major who graduated magna cum laude.

“She loved it here and it was the most perfect environment for her,” Gliniewicz said. “She is not the same person as when she first got here. Her confidence is incredible — she has done very, very well and we are so proud of her.”

Rukhsana Raza and her husband, Babar Raza, of Miami, said they were exceptionally proud of their daughter Salwa Raza, who earned a bachelor of arts in South Asian studies.

“We are originally from Pakistan, and have lived in the States for 30 years,” Babar Raza said. “We are so proud of her. She is the first generation here in the States to graduate from college.”

Teanna Holmes, 23 of Harlem in New York City, who studied pre-med and is currently a birth doula, said Mount Holyoke had been like her second home.

“It has been great here, and it is a very supportive community,” she said noting that she would be setting up a doula practice in New York City to work with underprivileged women before going to medical school.

Hailing from Bloomington Ill., Rachel Fulop, 22 who earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with a history minor, said she hadn’t been certain about attending a women’s college, but after she settled in she couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

An equestrian in hunt and seat, Fulop said she “also came for the riding program.”

Parents, family and friends were not the only ones cheering on the graduates. Fenway High School teachers Keith Hammitte and Jessie Lortie drove out from Boston to see five of their former students graduate.

“We often have one or two students come to Mount Holyoke, but five in one class is unusual,” Lortie said. “I think that is 8 percent of our student body!”

Hammitte said it is worth the trip out from Boston to see his former students walk across the stage, get their diplomas and begin their adult lives.

Sunday’s graduation included students representing over 30 countries and five conti nents.




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