Goucher President Sanford J. Ungar at Commencement 2008

Good morning.  I'm Sanford Ungar, and I welcome you to the Goucher College campus for our one-hundred-and-twenty-first spring commencement.  This is only our second time celebrating this occasion under the big top on the Winslow Great Lawn, alongside the Athenaeum, and we're very pleased to be here-unworried about the weather, and with plenty of room for anyone who wants to attend.  The benefactor of this wonderful space, Margo Winslow, from the Goucher College Class of 1969, could not be here last year, but she is this time-so we're going to take a few seconds now to thank her publicly for her vision and her long record of generous philanthropy to this college.  Margo . . .

And this is also the second time we are simulcasting our joyous commencement ceremony.  So I'd like to ask the Class of 2012 and our guests here on campus to greet the alumnae, alumni, family members, and friends who are with us online today. . . .

This was a challenging year in many respects.  It began, symbolically enough, with an earthquake, a hurricane, and a power failure, and there has been plenty of upheaval since.  The worst recession in many years is officially over, but its lingering impact casts a pall over every institution and many Goucher families.  The fun is out of politics, and we suddenly find ourselves having to explain and defend the value of a liberal arts education.  Talking about the members of the Goucher College Class of 2012-their achievements and their promise-is one of the best ways to explain why this education is worth the investment and will be for a lifetime.

Let's start by mentioning that this class knows the world.  The overall study-abroad rate of college and university students in America hovers between 1 and 2 percent.  But this year's 276 Goucher graduates have a 117 percent study-abroad rate.  That is because 35 of them have studied abroad twice, and six of them three times or more.  They have taught in South Africa, interned at Mother Teresa's mission in Ethiopia, danced in Brazil, done community service in Peru, trekked in Nepal, and explored the coral reefs off Honduras.  They've been to Australia and Ghana and Scotland and Rwanda; Italy, Spain, Israel, and Vietnam; Costa Rica and New Zealand.  They've mastered languages and learned lessons about how practices in other countries can help us find new approaches to social justice issues here at home.  They have, to put it in terms familiar to us, transcended boundaries.

We've got at least two students who went to China on an ICA-an intensive course abroad-now returning there to teach English.  One graduate has an immediate assignment working at the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH, and another will work in biomedical science at NIH while pursuing her doctorate at George Washington University.

There are people headed for medical school and graduate programs in Middle Eastern politics, dance therapy, social work, and education.  Some will join Teach for America in New York, Baltimore, and other cities.  One-you'll hear from him later-plans to become an opera singer, another awaits her Peace Corps assignment, and a third returned just yesterday from early, rigorous post-graduate religious studies in Jerusalem.  Did I mention that our homegrown Jeopardy champion will achieve her dream of working for the New York Mets?

So many of the students graduating today have compelling personal stories.  They have survived difficult childhoods, the deaths of the most important people in their lives, and other extreme hardships.  Quite a few are already financially autonomous adults, at least one since before graduating from high school.  Some relied heavily on their dedicated and sacrificing grandparents to help them find their way, and many are the first in their families to graduate from college.  One who left high school without a diploma will now return to Brooklyn to work with other inner-city high school dropouts.

We are proud of them all-of those who explore new frontiers in choreography, who reinterpret the career of a Supreme Court justice, who take beautiful photographs, who dissect fruitflies in the lab all summer long, and who run very fast.  We're proud of a men's lacrosse team with an 18-2 record, including a first-time-ever win in the NCAA national Division III tournament in their sport.  We're quite pleased that Goucher chose all of these fine people, and that they chose Goucher.  We are honored to have been a part of their lives so far.  We have learned from them, even as they were learning from us.  They will carry Goucher with them as they go into a world populated with distinguished alumnae and alumni of this college who are judges, scientists, journalists, non-profit and corporate CEOs, dancers, artists, lawyers, doctors, and therapists.  You name it-all on the foundation and the enduring strength and value of a liberal arts education.

Of course all of our students speak of the profound transformative impact that our faculty and staff have had on them, and I know they want me to ask their teachers and other mentors to rise now, so that we can acknowledge them.