YONKERS, N.Y. – Loud cheers emanated from the crowd as, one by one, the names of the graduates were called, prompting them to collect their diplomas onstage Friday at Sarah Lawrence College. Faculty members grinned as they embraced students, while giddy parents snapped photographs and waved excitedly to their children.
More than 1,000 friends and family members huddled under a tent to celebrate the 2012 commencement ceremony of nearly 475 graduates on the South Lawn at Sarah Lawrence College.
"In the current climate of skepticism about the value of a higher education," said Sarah Lawrence President Karen Lawrence, "it's imperative for us to find the right language, stories, images and examples to convey the way in which the education we offer matters in the lives of our students and the work they go on to do in the world."
The graduates, clad in black caps and gowns, were shielded from the bright sun under the tent. Lawrence said that at Sarah Lawrence, students' grades are not so important as the close relationships that they have with their teachers. That bond builds rich character and lessens feelings of failure, she said.
"Want to know how to work hard?" he said. "It's not complicated. All you have to do is listen. Listen to what you've been asked to do. Listen to what's going on around you. Learn how the piece of the project you're working on fits into the bigger picture. Learn how you fit in. Pay attention. When you genuinely understand how the big picture works, you start being able to anticipate changes, adapt your behavior, your output. You do this and you will simply do your job better, and you will make the job of everyone around you easier."
Rona Carr, a Sarah Lawrence graduate of 1974 and head of the alumni association, encouraged the students not to jump to conclusions in the future, as that leads to failure, but instead to try to see other points of view.
"The times we live in are unusually demanding," she said, "and (it is) important and, in fact, critical that we use the arsenal of tools that you acquired during your time at the college to take care of yourselves personally, professionally, to do good work, and to support the college."
Photos of the commencement and additional information are available on the Sarah Lawrence website.