College awards 1,779 degrees at 242nd Commencement
By Jenny Che, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, June 11, 2012
The sun broke over the Green early on Sunday morning, soaking the approximately 12,000 audience members and students awaiting Dartmouth’s 242nd Commencement ceremony and setting the stage for one of the warmest Commencement days in recent years. Speakers focused on the change that has marked the careers of the graduating class, and the College awarded 1,779 total degrees, including 1,093 bachelor's degrees conferred on members of the Class of 2012.
Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America and this year’s Commencement speaker, urged graduates to chart new courses and persist in the face of criticism and failure.
“It’s easier to tear something down than build something up," she said. "It’s easier to poke holes in ideas than think of ways to fill them."
Kopp made references to the Dartmouth social scene when she spoke of the personal connections that students have formed over the past four years.
“It’s been a colorful Senior Week,” she said. “You’ve formed deep friendships over your pong tournaments and all-nighters.”
Kopp discussed the difficulties she faced when trying to start Teach for America and encouraged students to pursue and defend their ambitions. The world faces vast problems from poverty and disease to social injustice and violent regimes, but they are “completely within our grasp to defeat,” Kopp said.
“The force of people who aid the effort needs to be stronger than force of those who are actively resisisting or sitting on sidelines,” Kopp said. “You were made to be builders with open hearts and open minds. You can slant the world toward yes.”
Honorary degrees were awarded to Kopp, South African musician Johnny Clegg, human rights activist Aqqaluk Lynge, Chairman of the Board of Vornado Realty Trust Steven Roth ’62 Tu’63 and Chancellor of the University of California, San Diego Marye Anne Fox GR’74. Roth and Fox are members of the Board of Trustees.
College President Jim Yong Kim and his wife, Younsook Lim, also received previously unannounced honorary degrees.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stephen Mandel ’78, who presented the degrees, praised Kim for his work as a global health expert and educator at the World Health Organizationan, Harvard Medical School and Partners in Health, which he co-founded, and acknowledged that Kim was initially an “unlikely choice” to lead the College.
“The school sought someone who was inspired and unafraid, and you have hit every mark and enriched us with the uniqueness of your background and perspectives,” Mandel said, as audience members stood to applaud Kim. “You arrived at the height of the global economic crisis and the budget shortfall at Dartmouth, and we wish you well on your journey.”
Lim, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston and a specialist in improving health care service quality, has worked to reduce mother-to-child AIDS transmission in developing countries. Mandel commended her for her commitment to social justice and “unwavering service to the College.”
Kim’s valedictory address was both a sendoff to the graduates and his own farewell to the College. Kim will step down on June 30 to assume the presidency of the World Bank.
He called the day one “full of mixed emotions” and reflected on the lessons he learned from interactions with students, faculty and the Board. Kim, who arrived at the College in 2009, encouraged graduates to venture into unknown territory and avoid fear and mediocrity.
“You have an enormous responsibility to make yourself understandable to the diverse, interconnected world,” Kim said. “Don’t hide behind your elite education. Make it work for you, and especially for others.”
Kim said he is looking forward to the opportunity to work with the global community in both the private sector and civil society to reduce global poverty and expressed his gratitude to the College community.
“The excellence and rigor of this community has made each of you a better human being,” he said. “It has made me, too, a better human being.”
Kim echoed former College President Ernest Hopkins in his closing words and said that there was no parting between the shared friendships and experiences.
“I have become impressed more and more with sweetness I’ve attached to this family we call Dartmouth,” he said. “Drink in that sweetness and hold it in your heart.”
The College also honored four valedictorians in the Class of 2012. Wills Begor ’12, Glynnis Kearney ’12, David Rogg ’12 and Jie Zhong ’12 all held a perfect 4.0 grade point average during their undergraduate careers.