Tag Archive for reunion and commencement 2013

785 Undergraduates Receive Degrees at Wesleyan’s 181st Commencement

Wesleyan awarded 785 bachelor degrees to the Class of 2013.

Wesleyan awarded 785 bachelor degrees to the Class of 2013.

Seniors at Wesleyan's Commencement Ceremony.

Seniors at Wesleyan’s Commencement Ceremony.

Embrace the contradictions and tensions within yourself and between yourself and others, and accept that they will never go away.

This was the advice Joss Whedon ’87 shared with the Class of 2013 at the 181st Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 26.

“The best thing is not just the idea of honest debate, the best thing is losing the debate, because it means that you learn something and you changed your position. The only way really to understand your position and its worth is to understand the opposite. That doesn’t mean the crazy guy on the radio who is spewing hate; it means the decent human truths of all the people who feel the need to listen to that guy. You are connected to those people. They’re connected to him. You can’t get away from it.”

The 181st Commencement Ceremony took place on Andrus Field, with Honorary Doctorate of Letters recipient Joss H. Whedon '87 delivering the Commencement speech on May 26. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

The 181st Commencement Ceremony took place on Andrus Field, with Honorary Doctorate of Letters recipient Joss H. Whedon ’87 delivering the Commencement speech on May 26. (Photos by John Van Vlack)

Wesleyan conferred an honorary doctor of letters upon Whedon at the ceremony, which was held on Andrus Field, with temperatures that felt more like October than late May. Also honored were Majora Carter ’88, an urban revitalization specialist, and Jim Dresser ’63, who has dedicated himself to serving Wesleyan in numerous capacities since graduating. Both were awarded honorary doctor of human letters degrees. This year, Wesleyan awarded 785 bachelor degrees; 30 master of arts degrees; 30 master of arts in liberal studies degrees; and 21 doctor of philosophy degrees.

An award-winning film and television writer, director and producer, Whedon was behind the 2012 superhero blockbuster The Avengers, as well as cult favorites like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. His latest film, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, premiers June 7. An early screening was held at Wesleyan on Friday, May 24.

Whedon ’87 Delivers 181st Commencement Address

Joss Whedon '87 delivered the Wesleyan Commencement Address on May 26:

Joss Whedon ’87 delivered the Wesleyan Commencement Address.

Award-winning writer, director, and producer Joss Whedon ’87 delivered the Commencement Address during the 181st Commencement Ceremony. Watch a video of his address below, or read the text of this speech.

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“Commencement address—it’s going well, it’s going well. Thank you, Jeanine, for…making me do this.

This is going to be great. This is going to be a good one. It’s gonna go really well.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and… no. I’m not that lazy.

I actually sat through many graduations. When I was siting where you guys were sitting, the speaker was Bill Cosby—funny man Bill Cosby, he was very funny and he was very brief, and I thanked him for that. He gave us a message that I really took with me, that a lot of us never forgot, about changing the world. He said, “you’re not going to change the world, so don’t try.”

That was it. He didn’t buy that back at all. And then he complained about buying his daughter a car and we left. I remember thinking, “I think I can do better. I think I can be a little more inspiring than that.”

And so, what I’d like to say to all of you is that you are all going to die.

This is a good commencement speech because I’m figuring it’s only going to go up from here. It can only get better, so this is good. It can’t get more depressing. You have, in fact, already begun to die. You look great. Don’t get me wrong. And you are youth and beauty. You are at the physical peak. Your bodies have just gotten off the ski slope on the peak of growth, potential, and now comes the black diamond mogul run to the grave. And the weird thing is your body wants to die. On a cellular level, that’s what it wants. And that’s probably not what you want.

Whedon ’87, Carter ’88, Dresser ’63 Receive Honorary Degrees

Wesleyan President Michael Roth, at right,  awarded Majora Carter ’88, Jim Dresser ’63 and Joss Whedon ’87 with honorary degrees.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth, at right, awarded Majora Carter ’88, Jim Dresser ’63 and Joss Whedon ’87 with honorary degrees.

During Wesleyan’s Commencement Ceremony on May 26, Wesleyan President Michael Roth awarded Joss Whedon ’87, Majora Carter ’88 and Jim Dresser ’63 with honorary degrees.

Joss Whedon ’87
Joss Whedon is an award-winning writer, director and producer and delivered the commencement address on May 26. He is the force behind such popular television shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and the 2012 superhero blockbuster film, The Avengers.

The son and grandson of successful television writers, Whedon was raised in New York and studied film at Wesleyan. After graduating, he landed his first TV writing job on the show Roseanne. He developed a script for the 1992 film, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which in 1996 he adapted as the cult hit television show by the same name. Buffy ran for seven seasons; Whedon was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series in 2000. The spin-off from Buffy, titled Angel, ran for five seasons. He subsequently created the space-western TV show, Firefly, and a film of the same premise, Serenity, which won a 2006 Hugo Award.

Whedon also wrote and co-wrote on numerous films, including Toy Story (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award)In 2008, he produced a short web-exclusive musical comedy, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which won an Emmy Award and a Hugo Award, among other honors.

In April 2012, The Avengers, a live-action adaptation of the Marvel Comics superhero team, directed and co-written by Whedon, had the biggest opening weekend of all time, and became the third highest-grossing film ever. He is currently writing and will direct the sequel. Most recently Whedon directed a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

In 2009, Whedon delivered the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns keynote address at Wesleyan. In 2010, he was honored by the Producers Guild of America with its Vanguard Award, which recognizes achievements in new media and technology.

Majora Carter ’88

Majora Carter '88 and Wesleyan President Michael Roth. (Photos by John Van Vlack)

Majora Carter ’88 and Wesleyan President Michael Roth. (Photos by John Van Vlack)

Majora Carter is an urban revitalization strategist who works to make communities more livable, healthy and green through infrastructure projects, policies, and job-training and placement systems. She is a MacArthur “genius” Fellow and has received numerous other accolades from organizations as wide ranging as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, the Center for American Progress, and Goldman Sachs. Fast Companynamed her one of the 100 most creative people in business.

Today, Carter is president of the Majora Carter Group, an economic development consulting and planning firm that works across the United States and internationally. But she got her start as a force for change in the neighborhood where she grew up: the South Bronx.

In 2001, Carter founded Sustainable South Bronx, a nonprofit organization dedicated to resolving environmental inequality issues—ensuring that no one community has to bear a higher environmental burden with fewer environmental benefits than any other—through innovative, economically sustainable projects informed by community needs. As executive director (until 2008), she oversaw the construction of the award winning Hunt’s Point Riverside Park, the South Bronx’s first new waterfront park in 60 years; the design of the South Bronx Greenway, for which she obtained federal funding; and development of the Green-Roof project and policy initiatives that led to tax-abatements for property owners who adopt this sustainable building practice. In 2003, Carter pioneered one of the country’s first urban “green collar” job training and placement programs, influencing how economic and environmental issues across the country are addressed.

Carter’s TED talk was one of the first six to launch TED’s groundbreaking website. She has been widely featured in the media, including in The New York TimesMarketplace, and NBC Nightly News and has produced her own shows for Sundance Channel as well as her nationally broadcast, Peabody Award-winning public radio series, The Promised Land.

Jim Dresser ’63
The family history of Jim Dresser ’63 is deeply intertwined with that of Wesleyan. His great-grandfather taught classics at Wesleyan for almost 40 years in the 19th century; his grandfather, grandmother, great-aunt, father, sister and son all graduated from Wesleyan. And his commitment to the school is unparalleled. Dresser headed the annual fund, led the alumni association, and served on the Board of Trustees for 15 years, including a four-year term as chair of the Board. He also stepped in temporarily to fill critical positions at Wesleyan, serving as Interim Vice President of University Relations and Vice President of Finance and Treasurer. In recognition of his remarkable service to Wesleyan, the baseball diamond on Andrus Field was named the “Dresser Diamond” in May 2010. It was a fitting honor; Dresser is an avid baseball fan and softball player, and his grandfather (class of 1908) was captain of Wesleyan’s baseball team.

As chair of the Board of Trustees, Dresser led the search process that resulted in the arrival of Michael Roth ’78 as Wesleyan’s 16th president. He also worked with the Board to raise gifts to the University’s endowment. Dresser led the Board in dealing with the financial crisis of 2008, helping the University to streamline its expenditures and explore possibilities for additional revenue. On the Board, he was known for his inclusive leadership style and his dedication to involving students and faculty.

For many years Dresser was a senior vice president and chief administrative officer at The Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting firm and a leading advisor on business strategy.

President Roth Makes Remarks at Commencement Ceremony

Wesleyan President Michael Roth speaks during the Wesleyan Commencement Ceremony May 26.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth speaks during the Wesleyan Commencement Ceremony May 26.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 made the following remarks during the Wesleyan Commencement Ceremony:

“Members of the board of trustees, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, new recipients of graduate degrees and the mighty class of 2013, I am honored to present some brief remarks on the occasion of this commencement.

During your four years here, Wesleyan has been largely isolated from many of the troubles of this world. While you have been students, the United States has been engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on this Memorial Day Weekend, I begin by asking us all to take a moment to remember that these wars have cost the lives of thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of civilians in those countries.

Economic times have been difficult as well. When you first arrived, in the fall of 2009, the global economy was reeling from the most massive disruption since the Great Depression. Unemployment in this country quickly skyrocketed and is now only slowly receding, while the distance between the very wealthy and the average American has increased enormously. 2009-2013 has been a good time to be in a bubble—even a pretty leaky bubble like our own here on campus. You have spent four years taking advantage of an education devoted to boldness, rigor, and practical idealism, and now as I speak to you for your last time as students, I’d like to underscore three ideals that I hope you will take with you and make practical in your lives going forward: non-violence; diversity; and equality.

Swartz ’13 Delivers Senior Class Welcome

Anna Swartz ‘13 delivered the Senior Class Welcome at the Wesleyan Commencement Ceremony.

Anna Swartz ‘13 delivered the Senior Class Welcome at the Wesleyan Commencement Ceremony.

Anna Swartz ’13 delivered the following remarks during the Senior Class Welcome on May 26:

Right before I left for Wesleyan for the first time, Ruth, my ninety-year-old neighbor warned me “Make the most of it, college is the best time of your life.” I took her advice to heart, it seemed smart to trust a woman who had done so much living, and I arrived at Wesleyan filled with the loftiest dreams, the highest expectations, ready for my life to be changed.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that college isn’t just about what Wesleyan could give to me, it wasn’t just about showing up and getting the full, packaged collegiate experience, I had to do the changing too. So I opened myself up, along with my classmates, and Wesleyan delivered.

This school took us to the sepia-soaked worlds of Hollywood classics, to the energetic drum circles of West Africa, the desolate moors of the Brontës and the cinderblock hallways of Cheshire Correctional Institute, where the students there looked at us and said “We are Wesleyan too.” We read the Romantics and the Modernists, we saw Judith Butler and Antonin Scalia, we woke up early to hike Mount Higby, and stayed late after class to talk to our professors.

Classes of ’63, ’73 Break Records with Reunion Gifts

Josh Boger '73, P'06, P'09 delivered the Board of Trustees Welcome.

Josh Boger ’73, P’06, P’09 delivered the Board of Trustees Welcome during R&C Weekend.

Record-busting gifts from the classes of 1973 and 1963 pushed the combined reunion gift total to more than $47 million, as alumni refused to let cold rain and umbrella-threatening winds dampen their generosity.

The class of 1973 with more than $15 million and the 50th Reunion class with more than $10 million led the way as gifts and pledges from all increased the total raised in Wesleyan’s campaign to more than $298 million, according to Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson.

The campaign has so far raised $107 million in endowment for financial aid, which is the university’s main priority. In fiscal 2013, 35 donors made six-figure commitments to the financial aid endowment and two parents of Wesleyan students made seven-figure gifts in support of aid.

Jim Dresser ’63 was awarded an honorary degree on May 26.

Jim Dresser ’63 was awarded an honorary degree on May 26.

The 50th Reunion class, which broke fundraising records, saw one of its own honored at Commencement as former board chair Jim Dresser ’63 was awarded an honorary degree.

“The Class of ’63 gift is powerful evidence that Wesleyan alumni care deeply about providing for future generations,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “We are grateful for their generosity, which we know comes out of deep feelings for alma mater and for the lifelong learning and friendships that began here. Their gift will help ensure access to the Wesleyan experience for students now and in the years to come.”

Included in the 1973 giving, which also broke records, was a generous commitment from Frank Sica to endow the position of athletics director.

“Who would have thought a bunch of hippies would break a Wesleyan fundraising record?” said Board Chair Joshua Boger ’73. “We were a serious bunch – the Vietnam War was a growing background in our lives – but we certainly knew how to party; the Grateful Dead on Foss Hill was a highlight. I think it was that balance of ugly omnipresent reality and a studied appreciation for release that stayed with our class. Given the chance, payback just makes sense.”

Senior Voices Address by Stowell, Sypher, Eichengreen

Glenn Stowell ’13,  Isaiah Sypher’13 and Jacob Eichengreen ’13 delivered “Senior Voices” speeches on May 25 in Memorial Chapel.

Glenn Stowell ’13

The prompt to which I originally responded for the purpose of putting together this reflection asked me to consider what about my experience here at Wesleyan was meaningful. And that left me to do some serious leg lifting prior to answering that question, as I tried to think about how an experience becomes imbued with meaning at all. When we want to make an experience seem meaningful, we often look backward to a moment by which we can illuminate our progress, how very far we’ve come. These are often dramatic and emotional moments that we turn to show us the true meaning inside an experience.

For that same reason, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of all poems written in our introductory poetry class—Techniques of Poetry—are about someone’s funeral, or are about putting down your family dog… or are about finally putting down your high school boyfriend. The moral of the story is that we think the drama which all of these moments share ought to feel especially illuminating and profound. And so we turn to them.

At a time like graduation, we look to sum things up because of a similar impulse: we want to find out what it has all truly meant to us and put it in a nice little package, with maybe a frilly bow. To do this, many people might look to a moment—maybe freshman year sometime—when they were very weak. And then compare that weakness to how sturdy and transformed they’ve become now. I think this is a natural sort of story to tell, a very popular one. Everybody wants, on some level, to be the underdog—to be Rocky, to be Rudy, to be the loveably indie Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.

Likewise, when I started thinking about what my Wesleyan experience has truly meant to me, I searched for a moment that I came back from. But I realized in searching for something that’d make my story into one of these comeback stories…that what’s far more incredible and far more unlikely than a come back is having everything come together better than you’d ever planned.

For me, I was able to major in Economics, play hockey, join a fraternity, give poetry readings, work as an editor, visit China…and a host of other things that I once only wished I could do in my life. [If you really want hear more self-promotion, feel free to check me out on Linked-in.com.] But at any rate, the main bullet point I’m trying to get across here is that I can say with confidence that I earnestly tried all of the things I set out to be a part of coming into college. And these past few years, quite honestly, they’ve been gorgeous. And nearly seamless.

That realization—to me—was more compelling and meaningful than transforming this whole experience into a comeback movie would have been.

And I think most importantly, without any doubt in my mind whatsoever, this all has happened as a result of the wonderful, awe-inspiring people around me—the friends, teammates, and professors that wouldn’t let me waste a precious minute feeling sorry for myself when there was so much for us to accomplish together.

Now that I’m fully looking backward at my career here, there was a near miss that I almost had my junior year. The opportunity of a lifetime happened to fall into my lap and I almost lost out on it, if not for my mentors and the urging and support of my friends. Essentially, Mike Sciola, former director of the CRC, had managed to secure me a great internship in New York that would bludgeon me for about 90 hours a week. And through an incredible stroke of luck and the generosity of Professor Ao Wang, I was asked to take over as Head Translator of a book of contemporary Chinese poetry. The next week after receiving those offers was a tough one for me. I spent a lot of that week deciding which one position I would take, and so I sought the advice of my mentors.

I remember sitting down with Wang Dage in the Daniel Family Commons (that upstairs part of Usdan) and you know, he’s usually a pretty calming presence. He’s a real old-school Daoist-type ideology Chinese guy. Very laid back, with long hair, a pony tail, and with a boundless sea of empathy inside him for absolutely everyone and probably also inanimate objects. But like I said I was nervous this week, despite his qi, about choosing between two different lives for myself, essentially.

So we chatted there for a bit and then I laid out my decision before him on the table. And it just sat for a while, somewhere on tablecloth, among our two plates, the utensils, my ice coffee, sweating, and his hot tea upon its saucer. Then I looked at him, pulling my eyes from the table. “What’s the decision?” he asked, incredulously, his palms upturned, “I don’t see much room for debate here. You’re going to do both. And we both know it.” He stood up, pushed out his chair, and left in search of another cup of tea. And when he sat back down, we didn’t bother talking more about it.

From this distance, from this lectern, that decision was probably the defining moment of my Wesleyan career. I came back into my senior year with a job and a book due out. But more importantly, I realized that without my mentors, I would have squandered at least one of those opportunities for no reason other than my own apprehension. And without my friends and classmates in the city and elsewhere, I would have flirted (for sure) with literal insanity. But my Wesleyan safety net came through for me—and I couldn’t be more thankful that it did.

In colloquial Chinese one relatively polite—and wicked etymologically interesting—way to refer to people is as if they are your family members. For example, there’s a cute little Chinese kid that runs around Japanica II (my favorite restaurant in town) that I call Xiao Didi—little brother. And his lovely and patient mother, a waitress there, eats up our cuteness, and sometimes gives me free drinks for it. So there’s that. But at any rate, I refer to Professor Wang as “Wang Dage”—which just means big brother Wang. And I bring this up because he said, ‘we both knew’ that I was gonna take on both projects. The implication being: he knew (without plotting out the particulars and logistics of my summer, without sifting through my petty, pedestrian apprehensions) what I would decide because he understood me and how I operate. He understands me, my brother does.

The most remarkable thing is that he’s not my only brother here. I have fraternity brothers, and brothers on the hockey team, and guys that I’ve met through poetry workshops that I’m proud to tell that I love them. Likewise, I have women that I care immensely about, with whom I’ve built elaborate friendships that are complicated and challenging and ever-changing. And maybe this whole brother-sister shtick is a bit too Cornel West and Prophetic Pragmatists, but man, I’m so excited to see these next few years and how they weigh on our growth and feed our tender ties to each other.

Sitting here now, in the Chapel, in late May, as much as we like to acknowledge our own agency and our own ability to make fine choices…and as much we all did manage to find each other in way one or another, the indisputable fact of the matter is that Wesleyan assembled us here together. And, regardless of how you feel about hot-button issues around here—whether that’s need-blind, or tuition hikes, or divestment, or whatever—I think we can all be appreciative of our relationships, and of Wesleyan’s undeniable role in connecting us. Without the brand name of Wesleyan and all its hash-tags and sometimes-nauseating trimmings, we would not be here together.

When I began to think about difficult moments for the sake of this reflection, about tough things I’ve had to overcome… I also realized that probably the most difficult moment I’ll have here is what happens next for us tomorrow: and that is saying “goodbye” to all these people I love and have loved. I think about all of the proud handshakes that I’ll have to disengage and survive afterward. The knowing hugs that I’ll have to walk away from. This whole festival of premature farewells that we’ve all got to force our way through, entirely unsure if this separation is for real and for how long.

So here, friends, is to hoping that it won’t be long at all. Thank you.

 

Isaiah Sypher
Rashawn Brazell is a name intimately linked to the manner in which I have come to conceptualize what these past four years at Wesleyan have meant to me; any attempt to convey the intensely personal nature of my Wesleyan experience would incomplete if I made no mention of the impact of his life on my personal trajectory. Rashawn was not your classic inspiring high school teacher or tireless social activist; in actuality, I cannot recount much of his life except for the fact that, like myself,he was a young man from New York with high aspirations for the future and a loving and supportive family. Tragically, Rashawn was the victim of a heinous hate crime that took his life from him at the age of 19, and many of his aspirations were left forever unfulfilled. By the time he came into my Iife , four years had already past since this heart-wrenchingly sad event occurred. In an effort to commemorate Rashawn’s life, a scholarship was established in his name and I was selected as the 2009 recipient. From this moment on, I felt a dual sense of responsibility to seek out a space where I could continue to grow and realize my intellectual and humanistic potential; I owed it not only to myself but to the memory of this dear young man in whose shoes I could have easily found myself.

And as I stand here today, I cannot be any more certain of the fact that I have found such a space in Wesleyan. We often use the word privilege to evoke experiences that are tied to a reality that- for many -is simply unattainable; my experience at Wesleyan has taught me that when privilege is not acknowledged, it not only produces a false narrative of selfhood in those who possess it but it trivializes and subjugates the narratives of those who do not. I do not use the word lightly, but as I think of all the knowledge imparted from professors, supervisors and fellow students, the happy commiserating of finals week, the laughter, the frustration, the confusion, the awkwardness, and the gradual discovery and acceptance of my own voice, I cannot help but feel extremely privileged. More than anything, Wesleyan has been a rigorous exercise in the arduous process of self-actualization. One of my most vivid memories of my freshman orientation was an activity in which I and other members of 200 church were given pipe cleaners and asked to mold them into something that represented who we were.

As I diligently bended and twisted my pipe cleaners, I reached two major revelations: one, that I would probably never have a career as a pipe cleaner artist; and secondly, that I was entering into a space where the formation and solidification of my identity would be entirely in my hands. I also recall having during this time a workshop entitled BiLeGaTas, which focused on matters of sexual and gender identity. I quickly found myself swirling in a sea of vocabulary and declarations that seemed to belong to world far removed from any that I had inhabited up until that point.

Deconstructing the gender binary and choosing ones preferred gender pronoun were concepts that simply had not existed in the public and private spaces of South Queens that had shaped me. I can’t pretend that I walked away from that workshop that day with any sense of enlightenment or that I even fully understood the content. But gradually, as I pondered what these concepts meant for me and those around me, I came to understand them as part of the radical notion of exercising autonomy over one’s selfhood.Never before coming to Wesleyan had I felt so empowered to explore all parts of my being without being beholden to any invisible restrictions put on me by social categories. I have conversed with my peers about topics ranging from 19th and 20th century French literature to the latest episode of Bad Girls Club.

I helped fellow students in introductory courses to two languages and spent an entire year discovering a new part of the world with Wesleyan’s support. I’ve awakened a passion for scientific research and rediscovered a passion for singing classical music. As I look back over these past 4 years and try to think of the moment that best represents what Wesleyan has meant to me, one of the first things to come in mind is last semester’s West African Dance performance. Though I usually try to steer clear of being the center of attention, I was chosen as one of the soloists. When the time came for me to go forward and do my improvised piece, I went forth, limbs flailing, head bobbing, bending and kicking as my heart raced to the beat of the drum. And as I gave this interpretation of the form, as I boldly put before the audience this articulation of myself, I felt a confidence that a few years prior would have seemed foreign to me. In short, I have found in Wesleyan the sort of safe and affirming space that Rashawn would have relished.

And I owe so much of this to you, my fellow classmates. Whether or not you have been aware of your presence in my life, each and every one of you have helped to shape 4 of the most formative and enjoyable years that I have had in the 22 years I’ve been on this earth. I have learned and grown from you in ways that go well beyond the scope of this speech. You have taught me to stand tall, to take pride in the accomplishments of others and to never be content

merely scratching the surface. As we prepare to begin this new and exciting chapter in our lives, I only have two wishes for you; one, that you all remember that, as my mother used to say when mediocrity seemed all too tempting, that of those to whom much has been given, much is expected in return; and finally, that you all be as proud of yourselves as I am of you this evening. Thank you.

Jacob Eichengreen
Going to college is supposed to prepare you – the singular “you” – for success. “You” – again, singular – will be more successful if “you” go to college because “you” will gain the skills necessary to provide for “your” own success. Going to college seems like the epitome of the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” individualism that America cherishes so dearly. Such was my mindset when I arrived at Wesleyan, at least.

Refusing most of the help offered to me by orientation staff on move-in day, I carried all of my stuff up the stairs into my third floor Butts single by myself – well, my mom helped a little too. At Wesleyan, though, I quickly learned that college is not about developing the singular, but the plural. It’s about building our collective ability to achieve, through our own individual actions as made possible by our community. Over the past four years, our community of professors, mentors, mail room employees and WeShop cashiers have equipped each of us to the best of their ability with what we need to grow personally and academically. The degrees we’re getting this weekend are each a testament to our own individual experiences, accomplishments and knowledge in our field of choice, but the knowledge and experience of each of us is eclipsed by the collective knowledge and experience of all of our class.

Over the past four years together, we’ve built things and solved problems in ways individuals cannot. We’ve weathered natural disasters – hurricanes, snowpocalypses, a multi-day blackout, and food lines at Usdan – and endured tragedies and controversies. We’ve also conducted groundbreaking original research, travelled to the far side of the world, transformed the Westco courtyard, occupied Wall Street, and told the world “I have sex.” But the most remarkable achievement of them all is that when I think of my classmates, I can distinguish the remarkable accomplishments and capacities of every individual, but I cannot separate any individual from the supportive community we constitute.

Last summer, I picked up a flesh-eating parasite while I was conducting thesis research in Uganda. The parasite – which I named Hugo – was a nasty little amoeba that lived in my intestinal wall, digesting its way into my bloodstream and other organs, but it took awhile after I got back to the states before the doctors figured out what I had. In the interim, I was pretty effectively isolated from social life at Wes. I was in too much pain to go out much on weekends and on a strict diet that kept me from going to campus dining establishments with friends…Hugo more or less kept me in my house on Fountain, only leaving the house for class or short-lived attempts at socializing outside Fort 40.

I never actually spent much time alone, though. On weekends, I’d typically plan to stay in my room and read or watch a movie by myself. I never asked anyone to stay in with me. But every single weekend friends would come visit me in my room, foregoing all the other opportunities of Fountain Ave on a weekend night to hang out and watch me sit in my chair. Never once, though, were people there only because I was sick. These weren’t ceremonial visits, or visits conducted just because it was something that’s “supposed” to be done. They were normal visits, just groups of friends getting together simply because of how much they enjoy each other’s company. In the five months I was sick with Hugo on campus, I spent perhaps two weekend nights without getting a text from a friend asking if it was cool for them to come hang out for a bit.

Had those visits been any different, had they not happened or been artificially promoted by my illness, this year would have been so decisively diminished. When people ask, I say this year has been incredible, parasite or no. The interactions with people and things we have accomplished through our genuine interest and concern for each other are what have defined this year, and the other three. The community we constitute keeps us running and achieving. We’ve worked together. Lived together. Studied together. Eaten together. Relaxed together. Laughed and cried together. We’ve even now regrown intestines together… We enable each other to do what we love most and do best.

Commencement marks the end of our time at Wesleyan together. The community that we’ve built, the complimentary support structure we constitute, will change once we leave Wesleyan. But we won’t stop growing. We won’t stop doing and achieving. And we won’t lose our appreciation for what community is. Wherever we end up, we will build communities just as strong, supportive, and permanent as the one that we have built together here at Wes.

Video Highlights of Whedon’s Address, Reunion, Commencement

Wesleyan alumni reunited with classmates, attended WESeminars, toured campus, visited with former professors, and congratulated the Class of 2013 during Reunion & Commencement Weekend May 23-26. On May 26,Wesleyan awarded 785 bachelor degrees; 30 master of arts degrees; 30 master of arts in liberal studies degrees; and 21 doctor of philosophy degrees:

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Award-winning writer, director, and producer Joss Whedon ’87 delivered the Commencement Address during the 181st Commencement Ceremony:

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Alumni Reunite at Class Reunions

Hundreds of alumni returned to campus May 23-26 to reunite with classmates at reunions and other events. View the full Reunion & Commencement photo gallery in this Wesleyan Flickr set.

Classmates, family members, and old friends joined in for an informal and eco-friendly buffet dinner in the Usdan Marketplace on May 24. (Photo by Dat Vu '15)

Classmates, family members, and old friends joined in for an informal and eco-friendly buffet dinner in the Usdan Marketplace on May 24. (Photo by Dat Vu ’15)

WES FAMILY! Five Wesleyan graduates in the same family, including two married couples, attended Reunion & Commencement Weekend festivities last week with their children. The Holder family's extended family members are: Alfonso and Perla Holder P'93, P'98, P'08; Tameir Holder '08; Tarik Holder '98; Tanya Holder '98; Tnyetta (Holder) Mitchell '93; and Maxroy Mitchell '92.

WES FAMILY! Five Wesleyan graduates in the same family, including two married couples, attended Reunion & Commencement Weekend festivities last week with their children. The Holder family’s extended family members are: Alfonso and Perla Holder P’93, P’98, P’08; Tameir Holder ’08; Tarik Holder ’98; Tanya Holder ’98; Tnyetta (Holder) Mitchell ’93; and Maxroy Mitchell ’92.

WESeminars, Campus Parties, Reunions, Graduates at R&C Weekend

Join the Wesleyan community for Reunion & Commencement Weekend 2013.

Join the Wesleyan community for Reunion & Commencement Weekend 2013.

Reunite with classmates, attend WESeminars, tour campus, visit with former professors, and congratulate the Class of 2013 during Reunion & Commencement Weekend May 23-26.

Seniors and their families are invited to join alumni for the traditional Parade of Classes at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 25.

Seniors and their families are invited to join alumni for the traditional Parade of Classes at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 25.

“Reunion & Commencement is such a fun and celebratory time for the entire Wesleyan community,” said Deana Hutson, director of events for University Relations. “There really is something for everyone. We have more than 150 events planned over the course of three days.”

In addition to another incredible array of WESeminars, Hutson recommends attending the traditional Friday and Saturday night parties, reunion class gatherings, academic department open houses and the Festival on Foss Hill.

On Friday night, alt-rock icon Amanda Palmer ’98 will perform a benefit concert for financial aid (buy tickets here). The weekend culminates with the 181st Commencement Ceremony where campus guests will hear from award-winning writer, director, and producer Joss Whedon ’87.

Other highlights will include several reunion class receptions and dinners, a Red, Black and Green All-College Dinner, stargazing at the Van Vleck Observatory, a volunteer breakfast, a tour of the Freeman Family Garden, a SteveSongs Concert, Thesis Art 2013 Exhibition, a gathering for graduating seniors and their grandparents, Senior Voices, the traditional All-College Sing, the Phi Beta Kappa initiation, Anugerah: Student Performance Showcase, and much more.

WESeminar topics include Approaches to Social Innovation, Wesleyan’s Partnership with Coursera, Mountaintop Removal Mining, the Grateful Dead at Wesleyan, Getting Published, the Art and Science of Mediating Complex Matters, Marriage Equality, the Art of Collaboration, Travel, Protest Posters Today, Hometown Security, Super Frog Saves Tokyo and more.

View the full schedule, by day, at this website.

This year, Wesleyan is expanding its bottled water elimination efforts through a Feet to the Fire: Earth and Justice for All campus initiative. Two student-designed water stations will deliver filtered and chilled water to Reunion & Commencement guests at the All-College Picnic and Commencement Ceremony. Learn more about this and other R&C sustainable efforts online here.

FAQs about R&C Weekend are online here.

Howell ’03, Tractenberg ’60 Pedaling to Campus for R&C

Henry Howell '03

Henry Howell ’03

Henry Howell ’03 is bicycling to his 10th Reunion.

He lives in London.

So, a long trip. Luckily the transatlantic portion of the roughly 3,300 mile journey will last only about eight hours, via airplane. Howell, an investment banker who has taken up bicycling in a big way, will finish the trip – about 75 miles – on two wheels, from his family home in Pound Ridge,  N.Y.

“Reunion will be even more memorable heading up to Wes by bike,” Howell said. “I’m already looking forward to it.”

He won’t be the first alumnus to bike to Wes for Reunion. Paul Tractenberg ’60 has been traveling that way since his 35th reunion, when he was reluctant to suspend his training for a planned 200-mile ride.

Since then, Tractenberg, professor of law at Rutgers, has tried out two different routes to Middletown; one from his home in New Jersey and one from his summer place on Long Island, crossing the Sound by ferry.