Remarks at the 2020 Commencement Ceremonies

Greetings to our amazing Class of 2020 and our beloved IC families. It is my great pleasure to share this moment with you, a moment that celebrates not only an important milestone in all of your lives, but the resilience and determination that our Class of 2020 has demonstrated through a truly unbelievable time.

Your senior year was turned upside down, and I know how much you’ve lost. I also know how strong this Class of 2020 is. How tenacious you are. How all you’ve gone through this year will be a touchstone of courage for the rest of your lives.

"You know what perseverance looks like – you’ve lived it. You know how to walk through difficulty with fortitude and grace, and I am truly inspired by you."

As part of today’s celebration, each member of our Class of 2020 received a box of goodies from the college. In this box is your Class of 2020 medallion, with a quote from Frederick Douglass, one of the most courageous and bold leaders in our nation’s history.

I selected the quote in January, well before this global public health crisis and well before the rise of activism against the sobering and very real legacy of racial injustice in America. Douglass’ quote resonates deeply for me today, particularly as I think about this class and the reality we all are in.

Douglass reminds us to keep optimism alive—even in the darkest times. To presume and to expect the very best of others. To not only remember our shared humanity, but to act on it.

I look forward to seeing how you will live these words in the coming years, and how your IC experience will help you find your place in a changing world.

This year, as part of Ithaca College’s 125th Commencement, we are proud to honor three outstanding people—individuals whom I hope you will draw inspiration from as you look toward your future:

Cindi Berger, an alumna of the Class of 1983, who’s both our Commencement speaker and one of this year’s honorary degree recipients. She’s the chairman at R&C PMK, an international public relations and marketing firm. Cindi has demonstrated such courage and drive as she worked toward her current leadership role after beginning her career with the company as a receptionist shortly after her graduation from Ithaca College.

Bill McKibben, an environmental powerhouse who has helped shape public perception—and public action—on climate change, alternative energy, and the need for more localized economies. Today, we celebrate Bill as an honorary degree recipient and acknowledge his visionary leadership.

"Hello, graduates.  I wish I could tell you that you are graduating into an easy world where you have no problems. Obviously, you know that is not the case.  This is a moment of rare stress for our civilizations.  And the crises that we face - the climate crisis most over arching of them all – will follow you your whole lives. But that also means that you graduate into a moment where you are desperately needed.  When your skills, your talents, your commitment, your urgency are required.  That’s a burden, but it’s also a privilege and an honor.  And It’s an honor for me to get to say to you congratulations on this great day."

Bill McKibben

And, we recognize Beverly Baker, Class of 1954, with this year’s Presidential Medal, which honors significant contributions to our college and to Ithaca. Beverly is a pillar of our community, and has shown her deep and lasting investment in IC through her tremendous support of our students and the arts. 

Beverly, Bill, and Cindi have found ways to walk through challenge and thrive—and I hope their lives will inspire you as you build your futures.

Class of 2020: Congratulations on your graduation from Ithaca College. Each one of you has shown the very best of IC—and we will never forget you.