333 earn bachelor's degrees at MCLA
By Jennifer Huberdeau
Posted: 05/21/2012 12:38:20 AM EDT
Monday May 21, 2012
North Adams Transcript
NORTH ADAMS -- Pamela Babcock had waited 32 years to hear her name called at commencement -- an accomplishment she achieved Saturday as she walked across the stage in Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Amsler Campus Center gymnasium to receive her bachelor's degree.
"It's amazing. It's been a long journey for me. I'm finally graduating with a bachelor's in art, which is so special for me," Babcock, of North Adams, said. "It's been the biggest thing on my to-do list. I have such a sense of accomplishment. I graduated from high school 32 years ago."
Her journey included classes at five colleges as she made her way across the country, settling in the Berkshires a few years ago.
"Looking back, I know MCLA has been the best college I've attended," she said. "I had the freedom to explore so many ideas and to put them into practice."
Christina Shepley, of Pownal, Vt., originally began her college career at a school outside of Syracuse, N.Y., but returned home and took a year off before majoring in biology at MCLA.
"Commuting worked for me, and I heard they had a good biology department," she said. "I'm going to be working full-time at the animal hospital that I've been working part-time at for the last five years. It's exciting to feel done and to feel that I've accomplished something."
For many of Saturday's graduates, the road to earning their degrees wasn't easy, but the value of having one outweighed the obstacles put before them.
President Mary K. Grant congratulated the 333 students earning bachelor's degrees, along with the 28 earning master's degrees in education and 16 others who received certificates in advanced graduate studies.
"You began your final academic year on the heels of a hurricane and never slowed down. In fact, many of you found ways to reach out and help those who were displaced and needed help recovering from the storm," she said, referring to Tropical Storm Irene. "You completed research projects, joined honor societies, achieved incredible honors, created works of visual and spoken art. You danced, you sang, you scored goals and rebounds, you 'rocked the block.' You put your time, your energy, your education to good work and today, we celebrate that."
She also took a moment to reflect on the value of earning a degree.
"It seems like every day, it's impossible to pick up the paper or a magazine or go online without reading about higher education. Much has been made about whether an education is worth it? Does it make a difference?" Grant said. "I say that sentiment is utter nonsense.
"Family and friends, as we gather here today and look at these bright faces, I see a group filled with hope, optimism, wisdom and fortitude. I cannot [help] but think that the people writing these pieces have a different outlook on the future.
"They are more interested in discouraging aspirations then encouraging opportunities that are the result of education. This room is made up of problem solvers, activists and citizens. This room is filled with our future. Because of what you've learned and how you've learned it, we will all be better off."
Keynote Speaker Robert Rabil, a graduate of the college who serves as director of graduate studies at Florida Atlantic University, also emphasized the value of higher education, saying their degrees are more than "just a pass into the professional world."
"You are standing now on the cusp of profound challenges unfolding in unpredictable ways in our world, from the rise of China as a global power to the fiscal crisis in Europe to the spread of Arab revolutions in the Middle East," he said. "Who is better prepared to help effect the right changes here and abroad than you? You are the new generation of leaders, of professionals. Your challenges are diverse and serious and demand more than hard work."
Rabil said the skills the students have learned during their time at MCLA, especially those in the area of critical thinking, will help them accomplish great things.
Rabil was one of four to receive an honorary degree from the college Saturday. Also receiving honorary degrees were Sandra L. Burton, the Lipp Family Director of Dance and chairwoman of the dance department at Williams College; attorney and philanthropist Samuel H. "Sandy" Laitman, of Williamstown; and Dr. Eugene Leibowitz, of Pittsfield, a member of the college's board of trustees.