Marist Celebrates the Class of 2017
POUGHKEEPSIE (May 22, 2017) – "When people of character and intelligence apply themselves to the toughest challenges, the world becomes a better place," President David Yellen said during the College's 71st Commencement, "and you, the Class of 2017, are people of character and intelligence. You've helped make Marist a better place, and now you will go out and do the same for our nation and the world."
Presiding over his first Marist Commencement since taking office last July, President Yellen conferred degrees on 1,194 members of the Class of 2017 during Saturday's ceremony on the Campus Green, before an audience of approximately 10,000 family members and friends.
"I've been so impressed with who you are as people and what you've accomplished," President Yellen said, mentioning academic success, accomplishments in athletics and the arts, and study abroad, among other things. "But even more than your academic achievements, I've been impressed by the great character you've shown," noting volunteer, fundraising, and other community work, as well as personal obstacles overcome. "You've grown tremendously during your time at Marist, but please remember this is just the beginning of your journey. As you move ahead in your career, education, and family, you'll have the opportunity to achieve great things and make a real difference in the world."
President David Yellen speaking to the Class of 2017 during Marist's 71st Commencement
During the ceremony, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist, MSNBC political analyst, and Chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board Eugene Robinson was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his achievements in bringing his "decades of international experience as a reporter, editor, and author to bear on the critical issues of the day – matters of politics, race, culture, and the state of the American Dream."
"I want you to save the world by defending truth, by defending knowledge, by defending fact," Robinson told the Class of 2017. "And although I am a political columnist," he continued, "this really has nothing to do with politics. Liberal, conservative, progressive, radical, alt right, whatever. It makes no difference. There is no body of human knowledge that can legitimately be called alternative facts."
"How do we know what is true?" Robinson asked. "We observe and record. We measure. We consult the historical record...We reach a consensus about what just happened." We can argue about why something happened and what it means, he said, but we have to start from some common set of agreed-upon facts.
Concluding on an optimistic note, Robinson said, "I think you're going to face all these problems, and I think you're going to solve them."
Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist, MSNBC political analyst, and Chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board Eugene Robinson was the speaker at Marist's 71st Commencement, where he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
The ceremony's other featured speaker was Valedictorian Emma Joan Talis of Whitehouse Station, N.J., who graduated summa cum laude with a degree in applied mathematics. She recalled her first impressions of Marist, made when she was a high school student, as a beautiful place defined by community and camaraderie.
"Over these past four years, Marist became our home," Talis told her classmates. "We discovered ourselves here, we met people who became our support systems and, now, our lifelong friends. We found love, we found new passions...we studied hard, and we volunteered."
Recalling interactions with Marist alumni during her time as a student, she said their relationship to the College now enters a new phase. "With our education at Marist, I know we will be prepared for all life has to offer us," she said. "As we are graduating, we should be seeing Marist not as the place we are leaving, but as the place we will come back to to share our experience with those who will follow in our footsteps."
Class of 2017 Valedictorian Emma Joan Talis will begin work in the fall on a Ph.D. in applied mathematics and statistics at Stony Brook University
Scenes from the 71st Marist College Commencement