Ithaca College Graduates Encouraged to Find a Gift in the Losses

By Dave Maley, May 23, 2021
Two ceremonies allowed graduates to celebrate in person and online.

Emmy-nominated television creator and producer Liz Tigelaar told some 1,300 Ithaca College graduates that the beauty in life comes in the questions and the unknowns, and to relish being in a moment where there is so much to discover. A 1998 IC graduate herself, Tigelaar was the main speaker at the college’s 126th Commencement ceremonies held on Sunday, May 23.

In alignment with current New York State public health guidelines for physical distancing at large indoor gatherings that include unvaccinated individuals, two identical ceremonies were held for the graduates, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. They included a hybrid of creative in-person and virtual components so that every student who wished to participate could do so. While no guests were allowed to attend in person, families were able to watch — and even participate themselves — virtually.

“You’ve lived through a global pandemic, classes on Zoom, and now a graduation your parents can’t attend,” said Tigelaar. “In many ways, you were robbed. That is true. But in what was stolen, something was left. A gift… And that’s what life is going to bring you. Losses that are gifts. You have to be resilient. Yes, grieve the loss, but find the gift.”

She urged graduates not to rush through life to get to the answers, because it is the moments between all the answers that will shape and reshape who they are.

“In many ways, you were robbed. That is true. But in what was stolen, something was left. A gift… And that’s what life is going to bring you. Losses that are gifts. You have to be resilient. Yes, grieve the loss, but find the gift.”

LIz Tigelaar ’98

“You now know that what you take for granted, you can lose. You now know that what you hold most dear can be taken from you without warning. You now know how good it feels to not be behind a screen. So don’t just take a picture on your phone today. Take it in your mind.  Enjoy today.”

Most recently the creator, showrunner, and executive producer of the acclaimed Hulu series “Little Fires Everywhere,” Tigelaar noted how lucky she was to leave Ithaca College with the education she had, the opportunities it afforded her, and the drive to go out and do every wild and precious thing she longed to do.

“There’s nothing that made me special. But it was this place that made me believe I could. And if I can, so can you. So go out and go after your own wild and precious life. And enjoy it.”

"A Day of Change"

Ithaca College President Shirley M. Collado awarded honorary Doctor of Letters degrees to noted economist Raj Chetty and groundbreaking theologian the Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas. She presented the Presidential Medal to Eileen Filler-Corn, a 1986 IC graduate who broke ground by becoming the first woman in the 402-year history of Virginia’s legislature to be elected as speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates.

“The values of service, selflessness, and a desire to impact the world around me for good have been the touchstones for my public and private life,” said Filler-Corn in her address to the graduates. “Today is a day of change for all of you seated here. As you leave this campus and enter a world shedding the dark cloud of the past year, I hope you will let those values guide you as well.”

"Our Unconventional Finale"

Representing her classmates, Senior Class President Ali Kelley recounted their shared experiences during the first two years on campus together, and how suddenly, in the middle of their junior year, “the world changed faster than anyone ever thought possible.”

“While it seemed like the world was spinning out of control, we managed to remain eager and hopeful that we would find ourselves reunited again,” said Kelley. “Togetherness shifted from sharing physical space to instilling a sense of solidarity for each other while finishing our college journeys. As we navigated a new world of distance learning and involvement, we strove to create justice and equality in our own communities.”

Senior Class president Ali Kelley

Senior Class president Ali Kelley recounted some of the challenges faced by this unique class.

Kelley noted that, while forging their individual paths forward, the graduates should remember how fortunate they are that their journeys collided at Ithaca College.

“Our time at Ithaca College has shown us to expect the unexpected, support each other in our hardest moments, and to work hard in the face of adversity. As we move into the next chapter of our lives, it is clear that we will carry Ithaca with us forever. Here’s to us and our unconventional finale.”

"The Promise of this Moment"

In her own final remarks to the Class of 2021, President Collado extended her deepest thanks to the many faculty, staff, and student workers whose careful planning and creativity helped make Commencement so festive – and possible.

“To our families, faculty, staff, and friends joining us from afar — thank you for supporting your students in this moment of pure joy and pride, and throughout their time at IC,” said Collado. “This class has walked through so much together, and today represents one more major step: the celebration of your diligence, intellect, and accomplishments, and your transition from student at Ithaca College, to graduate of Ithaca College.”

“Let the contents of these years inspire you to lead a life of purpose. This is at the heart of what Ithaca Forever truly means.”

President Shirley M. Collado

President Shirley M.  Collado

President Shirley M. Collado addresses the graduates.

As part of a Commencement tradition, each graduate received a medallion to commemorate the moment and connect the class. This year’s medallion bore a quote from the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

Collado said this quote reminds us all to value our shared humanity as we step forward as leaders into spaces that require courage and faith.

“I ask that you always remember the promise of this moment and what we’ve learned together as a country, as an institution, and as world community of human beings. This has been extraordinary, and you’ve had many, as have I, ‘a-ha’ moments that advanced your scholarship, opened your mind, opened your hearts and your spirits and the community that you created and enriched. Let the contents of these years inspire you to lead a life of purpose. This is at the heart of what Ithaca Forever truly means.”

Keep the Celebration Going

Please stay tuned for a “behind-the-scenes” IC News story about the production of commencement — both in-person and virtual components.

Visit the Commencement website for more photos, video and social media posts, as more content will be added over the week ahead. 

And check the Ithaca College Facebook page for photo albums from Commencement weekend events in the coming days.