BENNINGTON — New college graduates will undoubtedly go through a myriad of changes, but hopefully whatever comes next for Southern Vermont College's newest graduates will transition more smoothly than Sunday's weather. 80 graduates
Eighty Southern Vermont College students graduated Sunday afternoon under dark storm clouds, rolling thunder and a hard, soaking rain that blew in quickly, replacing the powder blue sky of morning and early afternoon.
But the ceremony carried on for students, parents, friends, faculty and staff under a large white tent in front of the school's majestic Everett Mansion.
The commencement exercise was the school's 80th, and the first for SVC President Karen Gross, who joined the school last year following the retirement of former President Barbara Sirvis after nine years at the helm.
Gross told her first graduating class that she would have always have a special connection with them.
"I have gotten to know many of you personally. You will be the benchmark for future graduates and graduations and you have set the bar very high — very high indeed," she said. "I hope the memories of this day, rain and shine, remain with you as you embark on your careers. You have done us proud."
After receiving an honorary doctorate degree, keynote speaker Sean McDonough, a renowned sports broadcaster and philanthropist, known for being the play by play announcer for the Boston Red Sox for 17 years, offered graduates several pieces of advice from his experiences growing up and from the broadcasting world.
He said that after leaving his dream job as the voice of the Red Sox, he was able to see that there is more to life.
"I have learned in the two-plus seasons that I have been away there is a lot more to life than 'ball one' or, 'he's batting .315.' There is a lot more to life than having people recognize you in the street," he said. "When you are trying to decide what is best for your life, it is a lot easier to make the right decision if you take your ego out of the equation."
Noting what he labeled a "lack of humanity in America today," McDonough urged the graduates to simply be nice, advice he learned from his late father, a legendary Boston Globe sports columnist.
"That great man of the 20th century, Will McDonough, used to tell me, 'It is the easiest thing in the world to be nice, it takes energy to be a jerk,'" he said.
McDonough said it was a great honor to speak at the commencement, and his voice, filled with emotion, confirmed it.
"I have been fortunate to have won a few awards over the years, but I can tell you with all sincerity that the honor of being asked to speak to you on a day that is so meaningful for the graduates, your family and friends, and for all who are affiliated with this wonderful college ... is an honor that ranks right at the top," he said.
Michael Donoghue, who graduated from the college in 1971, then known as St. Joseph's College, received the Distinguished Alumni Award. Donoghue, an award winning journalist who started his career at the Banner, has been with the Burlington Free Press for the past 35 years and is an adjunct professor and academic advisor in the journalism department at St. Michael's College in Colchester.
Donoghue, who serves as the national president for the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, and is a member of the New England Press Association and the Society of Professional Journalists Halls of fame, said he hoped the graduates enjoyed their time at the college as much as he did.
"They were among the happiest days of my life and remain so today," he said.
Several local students were awarded valedictory and salutatory honors. Valene Woodard, of Arlington, was the traditional baccalaureate degree valedictorian; Jennifer Jones, of Bennington, was the nontraditional baccalaureate degree valedictorian; Julie Bowen, of Bennington, was the nontraditional baccalaureate salutatorian; Amy Bloomer, of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., was the nontraditional associate degree valedictorian; Meghan L. Cipperly, of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., was the traditional associate degree salutatorian; and, Gregory Englund, of Bennington, was the nontraditional associate degree salutatorian.