With newly minted graduates, a newly installed president, and a sun-filled sky that was, if not new, at least novel in recent weeks, Keuka College's Class of 2019 whooped, hollered, and crossed the stage during Saturday's 111th Commencement celebration.
Retired American Ambassador Robert R. Gosende encouraged the approximately 460 graduates to be global thinkers who also work for the greater good at home during his Commencement address.
“The fact that our national leadership has abandoned diplomacy as a tool as we seek our way through today’s difficult world is most certainly unfortunate,” said Mr. Gosende, who served for 36 years in Foreign Service with the U.S. Information Agency and the Department of State before joining the State University of New York in 1998. “Our system is strong but people need to understand how it is supposed to function and how they have to participate.”
Mr. Gosende, whose diplomatic assignments included tours of duty in Libya, Somalia, Poland, South Africa, and the Russian Federation, told graduates they would need to make up for their predecessors’ shortcomings on the global stage.
“I’m embarrassed that my generation is leaving you with so much to do to set our country back on a more civilized course,” he said. “That is certainly not what we intended.”
He focused on four key areas: foreign policy, preventing future instances of genocide, the work of retired Foreign Service Officer William J. Burns, and changes to the U.S. political system proposed by Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.
Among the latter: Mandating non-partisan redistricting for House elections, establishing a single six-year term for presidents with the option of an additional two years through a public referendum, and eliminating lifetime tenure for federal judges.
Mr. Gosende also lamented the decline of high school instruction in civics, history, and world geography.
“We unfortunately began to move away from these requirements to focus on STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math,” he said. “And now we seem to be producing talented people in these fields, but people who do not understand how our system of government is supposed to work. We need to correct this! As Keuka College graduates, you have become uniquely qualified to make those corrections.”
Upon the completion of his address, Mr. Gosende was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by College President Amy Storey.
Presiding over her first Commencement following her appointment by the Board of Trustees earlier this week, President Storey urged graduates to put the tools they’ve honed on campus to good use.
“I know that you are smarter, stronger, and kinder today than you were when you arrived at Keuka College,” she said. “Use that growth to your advantage. You are in control of your destiny. Use your smarts, your strengths, and your kindness every day to enrich your life and the lives of those around you.”
Also taking place during Commencement ceremonies:
– An Award of Higher Education was presented to Joseph Alessi and Joshua Burnett, two students from the DRIVE (Diversity, Respect, Inclusion, Vision and Experiential Learning) program. D.R.I.V.E. is a collaboration of the Dundee Central School District, the ARC of Yates, and Keuka College in which College students serve as peer mentors to young adults with intellectual disabilities as they assimilate into the College environment and explore their personal goals.
– Jennifer Mealey, associate professor of social work, was named Professor of the Year. Prof. Mealey was praised for her teaching excellence, her engagement in the classroom, and her dedication to Keuka College.
-Catherine Reed, writing specialist and instructor of English, was named Adjunct Instructor of the Year.
-The Keuka College Board of Trustees awarded the status of Professor Emerita to Dr. Kasey Klingensmith, professor of biology, and to Ann Tuttle, chair of the Division of Business and Management and professor of management.
-Registrar Jill Bird was named Staff Member of the Year.
– Speeches were delivered by student representatives Mack Ottens ’19 and JoAnn Gillette ’17 M’19.