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Hobart and William Smith grads inspired to seek challenge

Hobart and William Smith Colleges awarded more than 500 graduates with degrees Sunday at the colleges’ 2018 commencement ceremony.

Featured speaker John Grotzinger, a 1979 Hobart alumnus — and the mission leader and project scientist for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, who guided the team that landed the Curiosity Rover on Mars — recounted the trials and adventures following his own graduation, advising graduates “to seek out the difficult challenges and invest all that you have in them.”

Grotzinger talked about the days immediately after he earned his Hobart diploma in 1979, when he flew to the remote Northwest Territories to begin his first job with the Geologic Survey of Canada. After a harrowing plane ride through snow squalls, Grotzinger disembarked on a frozen lake in the Arctic Circle to begin a three-month adventure walking miles through swamps to map the wilderness. The “physical and mental challenges” led to “a distinct sense of satisfaction knowing I hadn’t just been able to survive this workload, but I was actually growing because of it,” he said.

Grotzinger’s time working in that demanding landscape “made it possible for me to know with no doubt that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life,” he said. “I was grateful for this rare opportunity that taught me perseverance, tolerance, focus and that hard work can be a lot of fun. … Most importantly, it instilled in me the confidence to pursue new ideas and that in the most difficult tasks — in these challenges are where new opportunities lie. The moral of the story is to seek these challenges out and embrace them as gifts.”

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