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President Sanford J. Ungar's Opening Remarks

Goucher President Sanford J. Ungar at Commencement 2008
May 20, 2011 |
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Commencement 2011

President Ungar welcomes the graduating class, their families, and distinguished guests to Commencement 2011.

Opening Remarks

Good morning. I'm Sanford Ungar, and I welcome you to the Winslow Great Lawn on the Goucher College campus for our one-hundred-and-twentieth spring commencement. This ceremony is always the occasion for a wonderful celebration in the Goucher community, but it's a little different this year. We've moved to this spot from our traditional, more humble venue behind Mary Fisher Hall, and that is a great accomplishment. For one thing, the weather doesn't matter under the big top, and we didn't have to worry about making a last-minute decision to move to the Sports and Recreation Center. And there's room here for everyone who wants to attend.

Let's start by thanking all the people who made this move possible: Events and Conference Services, Housekeeping, and everyone else in FMS. Margo Winslow, class of 1969, created this space with her philanthropy. And our chief marshal, Jill Zimmerman, professor of math and computer science, got us over here without missing a beat.

When you look around the world - and the United States - at a time of great political, social, financial, and even seismic upheaval, Goucher feels like an island of stability - and of clear, time-tested values - in a sea of chaos. We had a few rough spots during this year, but the essential good of this community asserted itself and got us through.

So who are the people we are sending out into the world today? Let me tell you about some of them. . .

We have a biologist heading for New Orleans tomorrow to discuss her research with 20,000 people at the annual national meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. Another, one of our first Environmental Studies majors, is off to Alaska for the summer to study the effect of global warming on the permafrost. There's an international relations major who's joining the Maryland State Police.

Our house expert on Mongolia will return to Ulan Bator, its capital, this summer to explore local folklore for his short stories. Other Kratz fellowship winners will be off for Holland, Japan, and Paris and London. Oh yes, and we have two graduates headed for France long-term to teach English. One will be studying with an experimental dance group in Venice. And another is going to Rwanda to build a website for an orphan-support organization. Plus, a Tanzanian who grew up in Western Massachusetts is returning to explore Tanzania.

It's no surprise, of course, that Goucher graduates would be out there investigating the world. This is the second class that entered Goucher under the college's unique study-abroad requirement. Its 354 students participated in 403 distinct programs in 52 different countries. Sixty of them studied abroad at least twice. They taught in South Africa, worked at Mother Theresa's mission in India, interned for the United Nations in NORTH Korea, and, naturally, explored the coral reefs off Honduras. They transcended boundaries in Australia, Bolivia, Greece, the Czech Republic, Israel, Morocco, Germany, Russia, Slovenia, Ghana, China . . . the list goes on and on. They worked with members of the British Parliament or danced in Brazil. Thirty-two Goucher faculty members led them on three-week intensive courses abroad (or ICAs, as we call them). Wherever they went, the students had experiences, made contacts, and built relationships that will enhance their multiple careers and enrich their lives forever.

These students' accomplishments dazzle us, and there is great variety among them. We've got an All-America men's lacrosse player. The women's field hockey team has one of the highest GPAs of any such team in the country. There's a budding journalist who transformed our student newspaper and whose photographs of the Baltimore Orioles have actually adorned local billboards. One created our unique on-campus peer-listening program. There are dancers and singers and jazz and classical and computer musicians who knocked our socks off. Many of these young people have done enormous good in this community, including with our new Latino Center, where they teach English and computer skills.

Eight of our graduates - a new record for us - will enter Teach for America. Another will have a coveted Baltimore City Teaching Residency next year, and one will teach at a private school in the Baltimore suburbs. Through Americorps, and by other means, many will find ways to give back while they contemplate their next steps. Those going straight to graduate school will be exploring Russian Area Studies at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, Political Science at Johns Hopkins, Human-Computer Interaction at DePaul University, medicinal chemistry at the University of California San Francisco, veterinary medicine at Tufts University, Evidence-Based Social Intervention at Oxford, directing at the New School in New York, and Ethno-Politics at the University of Exeter. Others will pursue degrees in psychology, dance therapy, stage management, social work - you name it. Some will go to work for the US Department of Defense, in the management of hotels, in theater and dance companies. And more - as they move to Berlin or New York or Atlanta or Philadelphia, or stay right here in Baltimore - will follow the great tradition of taking their time to figure out what's next.

In recent days, at the Goucher Two luncheon and at our Donning of the Kente Cloth ceremony, we have heard extraordinarily moving stories of how some of these graduates overcame hardship and adversity to get where they are today. We share their families' pride and excitement on this occasion. We at Goucher are honored to have been a part of their lives so far. We have learned from them, even as they were learning from us.

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 all acknowledge them.

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