PURCHASE, N.Y. – Proud families and friends filled a tent at Manhattanville College on Saturday to watch 339 of their loved ones graduate from the Westchester County school. Throughout the ceremony, the graduates heard positive, but different, messages from their president, two of their fellow classmates and the keynote speaker.
In his remarks, Manhattanville College President Jon Strauss said the graduates were “an incredible class of learners and leaders” who have been prepared well for the future through the past four years.
“Few, if any colleges, do as good a job as Manhattanville at adding value – culturally, intellectually and professionally,” Strauss said. He asked the graduates to stand up twice to applaud their family and friends in the audience as well as the faculty, staff and trustees onstage because of the benefits they have received from both groups.
“You benefited from the nurture of family, friends, community and all of your prior experiences,” he said of the men and women sitting in the audience. He then added that the faculty helped “mold, educate and inspire you to become the amazing young adults we see here today.”
Francesca Savella, student government president, delivered the message of youth and reminded her classmates that “we’re only young once.”
“Go see the world – experience life,” Savella said. “Go bungee jumping, learn karate, go work on a cruise line. Promise yourself that you will live a little.”
Before her speech ended to a roar of applause, Savella told her friends and classmates “to relax, to celebrate and to live.”
Warda Khan, who came to Manhattanville from Pakistan four years ago, received the President’s Prize for her “outstanding contribution to the Manhattanville community and actively upholding the College’s core values.” The finance major graduated summa cum laude with a 3.98 grade-point average and was involved in many campus groups and organizations, including student government, the Seeds of Peace Club, the Muslim Students Association and the International Student Committee, Strauss said.
Khan began her speech by calling her class “an inspiration and a promise for a better tomorrow.” She said that “life is going to be so different after today,” but “no matter which part of the world we end up in, we are going to be successful individuals” because of their time at Manhattanville.
The new graduate said she was a “proud Valiant,” which is the school mascot, and knew that the “ethics and values Manhattanville has instilled in” herself and her classmates would take them far in life.
Kathryn Pilgrim, who graduated from Manhattanville in 1976, received an honorary degree and delivered the keynote address. The former CNN news anchor and correspondent, now an author, said that the graduates were “entering the stage at just the exact hour” when they could make a difference in the world.
“Your intellect, skill, strength and passion are needed now more than ever,” Pilgrim said. “I believe you are up to the task of speaking up to make this world a better place.”
At the time of her graduation, Pilgrim said, there was a Soviet Union, and “we had a Berlin Wall, China was just opening, and we all worried about the Cold War – it was a different set of challenges.”
However, she called the class of 2012 the Global Generation because of the social media presence in today’s society, and said that they “have the power, education and motivation do anything you dare.”
Echoing the sentiments of Savella and Khan, Pilgrim told the graduates to “see as much of the world as you can. Shoot for the farthest point and work your way back.”