Charge to the Class of 2011

President Sharon Herzberger 
108th Commencement Address 
May 13, 2011

Congratulations, Poets!

I don't like to start a speech by telling you that "I told you so," but do you remember when I advised on your very first day on our campus that your time here would go swiftly by?

Now, you know what I was talking about.

In those first days as a Poet, you probably could not even imagine the events of today. You were nervous, trying to find yourself in a new environment, wondering about your place here, and eager for classes to start so that your Whittier College experience truly would begin.

Well, look at you now.

Over the last weeks, your faculty and I have observed with pride your enormous talents on display. We listened to your senior presentations, marveled at your artwork, read your posters, and heard you articulately describe the work performed for your masters research class. We handed you awards at various convocations and banquets—and the honors just kept coming.

Earlier this week six of you sitting before us were inducted as charter members of Whittier's new mathematics honor society. Three of you are headed off to other continents on prestigious Fulbright Fellowships. How many Mellon Mays Fellows sit before us today, destined to be the professors of tomorrow? And how many Kennedy Center awardees will grace the stage and run our theatres? We have so many NCAA All-Academic athletes in our midst. And, one Presidential Scholar Athlete wasn't satisfied with her 3.8 grade average last week; so she earned a 4.0 a few days ago.

We watched you resurrect Whittier's nationally award-winning forensics team, strengthen our community through S.I.F.E. and Fifth Dimension, and build vibrant rugby, cheer, and equestrian clubs. We've seen you sing at the Grammy Museum and perform at Friday musicales. You created an organic garden and a school flag, and you traveled to San Francisco to run Model UN and to serve the poor. In your midst, you have budding entrepreneurs and philanthropists, and you should be proud that, together, you raised more money to give back to this College than has any senior class in Whittier's history.

We so admired your statesmanship at the helm of clubs and organizations. And we shared with joy news of your job offers and of your acceptances into some of the best graduate and professional schools in this land — and in other lands as well.

And this is just the start.

I like to warn visiting high schoolers and their families that Whittier is not the place for those who relish anonymity. It is not the college for students who prefer to sit in the back, let others answer the questions, and allow others to give the report. There is a reason why Whittier produces a disproportionate number of alumni with titles like CEO, president, general, superintendent, principal. You have been educated for leadership, which is important because this world needs you.

At the beginning of this ceremony, you heard Rick Gilchrist, the Chair of Whittier College's Board of Trustees, talk of the achievements of the alumni body you have just entered. Never doubt that one day a leader on our Board will be inspiring a graduation class by talking about you.

So, members of the Whittier College Class of 2011, I charge you to use fully all of your talents, the wisdom and breadth of perspective you gained through the guidance of our faculty, and the values you have assimilated as part of this venerable community. Remember that you were privileged to attend this College, and remember those who started you on your way.

I congratulate you — the graduates of the Class of 2011.