Green Mountain College shook off the threat of rain and awarded diplomas to 52 graduate students and 131 undergraduates during its 177th commencement ceremony Saturday morning. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the longest-serving member of the US Senate, was the graduation speaker. During the ceremony he received an honorary doctor of laws degree from GMC.
Among the graduates were members of the first cohort of the College’s master of science in sustainable food systems (MSFS). Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross was a guest of honor. On Friday he was the speaker for the graduate studies hooding ceremony held at the college.
Leahy remarked that he was the first in his family to get a college education—he received his undergraduate degree from Saint Michael’s College.
“This is a very special moment. Now the question is, starting tomorrow, what are you going to make of it? A college education is far beyond the reach of many millions of people your age, maybe billions worldwide. We’ve been reminded in these past weeks that in some countries girls and women have no access to any formal education at any age . . . Girls in Northern Nigeria are kidnapped and maybe sold as property because they dared to seek an education.”
Leahy spoke about his international campaign to ban production, export and use of land mines, including his many visits to countries where landmines remain a lethal threat. He told the graduates that students today are equipped with powers of advocacy that previous generations did not possess, using recent events in Nigeria as an example.
“You live in a time that is drastically different from the world your parents inherited. While millions of people suffer from poverty and war, they are no longer invisible . . . the world was shocked into consciousness by millions upon millions of emails worldwide, galvanizing people all over the world. “
Student speaker Johanna Douglas of Essex, Conn., graduating with a B.A. degree in sustainable agriculture and food production, was the student speaker.
“We have been a restless group since the start,” said Douglas, who was awarded the James M. Pollock Award for Exceptional Service and Dedication to Green Mountain College and graduated as the college’s all-time scoring leader in women’s lacrosse.
“Many of us decided to come to Green Mountain because we knew it would help feed our passion for active citizenship. We are not a group of young adults who merely stand at the edge. We dive wholeheartedly into our pursuits. . . We chose to attend Green Mountain College because we sought an education that would provide us with the tools and knowledge to build a better world.”