May 17, 2004: Headlines: COS - Swaziland: Journalism: Television: Peace Corps Directors - Gearan: Finger Lakes Times: Chris Matthews urges grads to learn how to compete

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Chris Matthews urges grads to learn how to compete

Chris Matthews urges grads to learn how to compete

Chris Matthews urges grads to learn how to compete

Matthews urges grads to learn how to compete


Times Correspondent

At yesterday’s commencement ceremonies in Geneva, William Smith graduate Lauren Buchmann conveyed the sentiments of many, with the words “Hire Me” on her mortarboard. (Spencer Tulis / Finger Lakes Times)

GENEVA — Yesterday’s commencement at Hobart and William Smith Colleges was followed by an unexpected celebration of something other than scholastic achievement.

Before the crowd had cleared the Hobart Quad, Jon Syrkett, there to watch his girlfriend graduate, took the stage.

Few paid Syrkett much attention as he spoke into the microphone that HWS President Mark Gearan had left moments before. Undaunted, he wished the class of 2004 the best of luck and then called his girlfriend, Michelle Harris of Buffalo, to the stage. Telling her that he loved her, Syrkett opened a black ring box, presented an engagement ring, and asked Harris to marry him.

After a long embrace, Syrkett announced to the audience: “She said yes!” — and the crowd cheered.

This year marked Hobart’s 179th and William Smith’s 93rd commencement ceremonies, with 183 Hobart and 241 William Smith students receiving baccalaureate degrees.

“We celebrate and warmly embrace the wonderful faculty at Hobart and William Smith Colleges,” Gearan said in his opening remarks. “We also celebrate and honor the many early childhood educators in elementary, middle and high schools who have led our graduates to this place and this very special day.”

Gearan then presented the first “Touching the Future” awards, honoring Greece Athena English teacher Carl Gianforte, nominated by William Smith senior Lisa DeLucia; and Dr. Barbara Rowes, of the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Arts, nominated by Hobart senior Emmanuel Rodriguez.

On a somber note, Gearan remembered Class of 2004 members Emily Collins and Rachel Nargiso, of Norwich, and William H. Everett III of Lewisburg, Pa., who died in car accidents in 2000.

With Dean of Faculty and Provost Patricia Stranahan and Charles H. Salisbury, chairman of the board of trustees, Gearan presented honorary doctorates of humane letters to: financial adviser Will K. Weinstein, Hobart Class of 1960; Emily H. Fisher, founder of the College’s Fisher Center; retired business executive Grady E. Jensen, Class of 1944; Chinese politics scholar Elizabeth J. Perry, Class of 1969; and the day’s main speaker, MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews.

Taking the podium for his address, Matthews said “As King Henry the VIII of England said to each of his seven wives, ‘I won’t keep you long.’”

He outlined five rules for the graduates to best achieve their dreams and goals: “Get yourself in the game. If you want something, ask for it. Follow your hunch. Hang on to your ideals. [And] this is the toughest — this is a competitive world — you’ve got to learn how to compete, passionately, without making it personal.”

Matthews told the graduates not to worry, however, saying “there will be time to dream, to think, to try, to fail, to learn, to carry on, and then to dream some more.

“You are leaving one of the nation’s finest liberal arts colleges, Hobart and William Smith, with two gems — a rebellious spirit that keeps government in check and people free, and an only-American attitude that anything is possible.”

Student speakers were Evan A. Griswold and Heather M. Harris. Griswold eschewed the “road-of-life speech” in favor of a humorous one and asked his fellow graduates to seek out passion in their lives. Harris called on her classmates to not forget the years they’ve spent and the friends they’ve made at HWS.

The processional and recessional were led by the Mohawk Valley Frasers Pipe Band and the Commencement Brass Ensemble, directed by Jeff Stempien, applied music instructor. The opening prayer and benediction were given by the HWS chaplain, the Rev. Lesley Adams.

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Story Source: Finger Lakes Times

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