Middlebury celebrate the start of the Class of 2022

Vermont Business Magazine Under cloudless blue skies, graduates, faculty, staff, family and friends gathered on the main quad at Middlebury on Sunday to celebrate the start of the 461-member class of 2022.

The occasion was particularly festive as it was the first time the community of Middlebury had gathered in one place for the ceremonies in three years.

“You may have noticed an extra buzz in the air this morning,” President Laurie L. Patton said in her welcoming remarks. “This is the first time we’ve all been together since 2019, and I’m so thrilled that we can all be together this morning.”

Senior graduates Om Gokhale and Roni Lezama, who were selected to co-present the student launch speech this year, offered poignant reflections on settling into the feelings of uncertainty that come with graduation.


491 students from the class of 2020 will attend the rescheduled Middlebury College opening on May 31


Gokhale, an independent human design researcher from Redwood City, Calif., noted the emotional parallels between the first and last week of college. During the “1,460 days”, he said, he learned to accept many new people and experiences.

“Uncertainty is a funny emotion,” Gokhale said. “He can sit on your shoulder during the magic times of your life – your first few weeks at college or your last – and try to convince you that something isn’t quite complete in the present.

“He whispers phrases in your ears that begin with “What if” or “I wish”. Maybe in the past few months you’ve heard him whisper, “I’m glad I graduated college, but what if I didn’t make the most of it?” Or, “I wish I knew what I would do next,” or if I did the right thing next, or if I became the person I was meant to be. »

Roni Lezama (right) and Om Gokhale delivered the speech for students at the 2022 Middlebury College Commencement. (Credit: Brett Simison)

Gokhale observed that doubts are what make us feel alive, and curing them should not be the goal.

“What is it like to accept not knowing?” he asked his classmates. “Recognizing the cosmic scarcity of life, feeling settled, even on days like this? To sink into the uncertainty of the present, to hear the questions you don’t yet have answers to, and still choose to be here, now? »

Lezama, a student of international politics and economics and a minor in educational studies from Queens, New York, offered a complementary approach to uncertainty, citing the late author and activist bell hooks’ essay “Towards a Culture World of Love”, which he read for a course at Middlebury.

Lezama said, “The hooks put it best: ‘Waiting for a time to come. To say that the best version of our life, and our most loving and peaceful self, is waiting behind this step or the next. But the truth is, your life is no less complete in times of uncertainty than when you have everything you want. Today is an important day, and it is an appropriate time to practice love, to express gratitude, to be here, now. But the other days can be too.

Outgoing Student Government Association President Lezama recalled his friend and fellow SGA leader Miguel Sanchez-Tortoledo ’23, whose death from cancer last year shook the campus community. Lezama said one of his biggest regrets of the past four years was not expressing his appreciation for one of the most “endlessly endearing” and empathetic people he’s ever met. He urged his classmates not to wait to express their love.

“It’s our habit to wait,” Lezama said. “For when things are a little less hectic. For times and celebrations like this. For a perfect and poetic time.

“But as Hooks said, ‘For many of us, our desire to love and to be loved has always been a moment to come.’

“But I ask you, class of 2022, what if every day could be that moment? What if certainty and perfection were not prerequisites for fully loving and fully living?

Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal, the digital payment services company, gave the 2022 kickoff speech and received an honorary Doctor of Letters. Schulman advocated for companies to help shape society for the better by sharing their financial successes with their employees. He is widely recognized for his commitment to social change and his passion for equity, justice and human rights.

Keynote speaker Dan Schulman stands on the podium to deliver his speech.

Middlebury alumnus and PayPal CEO Dan Schulman ’80 delivered the commencement address for Middlebury College on Sunday, May 29. (Credit: Todd Balfour)

A 1980 Middlebury graduate, Schulman has worked to democratize and transform financial services and e-commerce to improve the financial health of individuals, families and businesses around the world. With more than 426 million individuals and businesses using PayPal, Schulman has helped grow and strengthen the company since joining in 2014.

Schulman told the graduates that the world needs them to bring everything they have learned as liberal arts students over the past four years to their future work and day-to-day actions, and to confront and propose solutions to the world’s most critical problems.

“More than ever, we need to understand what it means to form and sustain community,” Schulman said. “We all have a responsibility to each other. I can assure you that your values ​​and principles will be important in every work situation and environment you encounter. They matter in the daily decisions you will make in your personal and professional life.

Schulman urged graduates to continually interrogate their own ways of thinking through listening – listening to understand instead of listening to respond.

“History teaches us again and again that some of our fiercest assumptions will turn out to be completely wrong,” Schulman said. “A good question to ask yourself today is ‘What could I be wrong about?'”

In addition to Dan Schulman, honorary degrees have been awarded to:

Joseph Bruchac, Doctor of Arts, citizen of the Nulhegan Band of the Coonuk Abenaki Nation and respected Elder, is a widely published author who is deeply committed to peace, justice and racial equity.

Nan Jenks-Jay, Doctor of Humane Letters, is a leading voice in environmental studies and sustainability programs within higher education.

Learn more about honorary degree recipients here.

Each graduate received a replica of Gamaliel Painter’s cane, presented by Janine Hetherington ’95, President of the Middlebury Alumni Association. The cane is a symbol representing the founding of the College and is now used as a mace for official academic ceremonies. Patton noted that the canes have many stories tied to them, including stories of the workers who made them, the trees who provided the lumber, and the Native Americans who cared for the forests.

“We are only beginning to tell these stories, and we ask you to remember them on your journey from here,” she said. “These canes are a symbol of the historic ties that bind us all to this institution, of the generosity that sustains us, of the hard work and learning that has brought you here today as a graduate of Middlebury College.”

Also as part of the ceremony, Mark Orten, Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, gave recognition of the College’s land, followed by an opening prayer and flute playing by Jesse Bowman Bruchac, Jr. of Joseph Bruchac, of the Nulhegan Band of the Abenaki Coonuk Nation.

Three students were recognized with honorable mentions: Andrew Carter Ng, a biology and economics major from Woodinville, Washington, and Mykhailo Poklad, a joint art and film and media culture studio from Kyiv, Ukraine. were appointed co-valedictorians. Mingjiu Gao, a double major in Literary Studies and French from Beijing, China, was named a Salutatorian.

Among other launch weekend events, graduates gathered at Middlebury Chapel on Saturday for the traditional bachelor’s service and new members of Phi Beta Kappa were inducted in a ceremony at Robison Hall.

About Wanda Reilly

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