SARATOGA SPRINGS — Skidmore College graduated 622 creative seniors Saturday at its 108th Commencement Exercises at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The College also awarded honorary degrees to Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Torre and author Alan Lightman, both of whom addressed the Class of 2019.
Kristie A. Ford, professor of sociology and director of Skidmore’s Center for Leadership, Teaching and Learning, delivered a faculty farewell to students. Skidmore College President Philip A. Glotzbach, Senior Class President Nigel Smith and Skidmore College Board of Trustees Chair W. Scott McGraw also shared words of wisdom with the graduating class.
Glotzbach offered heartfelt congratulations to the Class of 2019. He said that as college graduates they have received an incredible gift — knowing how to “distinguish good from bad arguments and separate fact-based from non-fact-based knowledge.” But, he said, today’s news, social media and digital world complicate that effort. Thus, Glotzbach called for each graduate to “continue to build upon your Skidmore knowledge ... be intentional about becoming, year over year, a more informed, responsible consumer of information.” The future of democracy in the United States and around the world depends on it, Glotzbach said.
The College honored Torre’s impressive record as a player and manager, the challenges he has overcome both in baseball and in his personal life, and his role in establishing safe havens for abused women and children through his Safe at Home Foundation and Margaret’s Place organization. In his address to graduates, Torre likened baseball to life and encouraged graduates not to be afraid of failure. “I went over 4,000 games before getting to the World Series,” Torre said.
Quoting Babe Ruth, Torre said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”
“Baseball is a team sport,” Torre said. “You need one another to get through tough times. Life is also a team sport.”
“If you go forward with a spirit of hard work, teamwork and the creativity instilled in you at Skidmore, then you will be successful no matter what you choose to pursue in life,” he said.
Physicist, author, educator and social entrepreneur Lightman noted that graduates would need to confront pressing issues, including climate change, disparity in wealth, sexism, racism and attacks on democracy. In a world that is also increasingly characterized by its “frantic pace and hyperconnectedness,” Lightman urged graduates to “acknowledge the importance of your contemplative self, your inner life, the part of you that imagines and dreams and thoughtfully considers your values.”
Ford, selected by the graduating class as its faculty speaker, took the graduates on a journey through the past, present and future. Thinking about the past, she asked, “Upon whose shoulders do you sit or stand?” Looking toward the future, Ford asked the graduates, “Who are you now? Who do you hope to become? And, if you hope to make an impact on the world, what path will you take?” Sharing sincere congratulations, Ford offered a final declaration: “You do not need me or anyone else on this stage to inspire you. You are our inspiration.”
Smith reminisced with his peers about the many accomplishments and challenges they’ve overcome together. He acknowledged that the future may bring unexpected hurdles. Someday, “someone may deny your application, reject your offer or shun your idea, but that is when you tap into your Thoroughbred mentality,” he said. He added, “There is much uncertainty in the world, but we have to be the agents of hope, action and, most importantly, inclusion.”
To conclude the ceremony, President Glotzbach delivered one final message to the graduates: “Skidmore is not just a place where you have gone to school, it is now part of your identity — of who you are — and you now are lifelong members of the Skidmore family.”
As bagpipes played, the Class of 2019 marched out of the amphitheater between rows of applauding professors and into the arms of proud family and friends, then on to their creative futures.