Over the last 12 years Kristen and I have attended Cornell’s Commencement–not because we have children to cheer on, but because it is a day of great joy and even greater possibilities. This year, Commencement had a slightly different flavor. At 10:00am on a hot and sultry Sunday morning, more than 5000 undergrads and grads began marching into Schoellkopf. Then the heavens opened. In minutes, everyone—parents, faculty, students, trustees–was soaked to the skin. First time it’s rained on Cornell’s graduation in at least 25 years! But the show went on, students cheered when it was announced the program would be shortened, and by the end of the event the sun was back out.
A poignant moment occurred at the beginning of the ceremony when it was pointed out that the empty chair on stage was in memory of Cornell’s 13th president Beth Garrett, who never had the opportunity to participate in one of Cornell’s signature events. Provost Michael Kotlikoff gave a memorable, thoughtful, optimistic commencement address about what makes a Cornell education special and how important it is to learn about and respect different points of view. He called Cornell “the most unpretentious, democratic and rigorous Ivy.” Read more here.
For those of us in the Notable Class of ’74, graduation day was particularly special. Our Class of ’74 scholar Garrett Guillen ’16 received his degree from ILR. We were introduced to Garrett in August 2012 upon his arrival in Ithaca from his home in Los Angeles. He had never been East and is the first person in his family to attend college. Over the next four years, Garrett navigated Cornell, succeeded both in and out of the classroom and, in his own words, had a “life changing experience.” Garrett’s parents made their first-ever trip to New York State and Ithaca for Commencement. We applaud Garrett for his courage and perseverance and wish him the best. As a class, we should all take a bow; the scholarship fund that Bob and Joan Saltsman Oelschlager ‘74 had the vision to start on behalf of our class, to which hundreds of classmates have made a contribution, is making a real difference in the lives of young people and our University.
Go Big Red!
John Foote ‘74