Potash Hill

Commencement 2020

This year’s commencement was exceptional in so many ways, not only because it was the final one on the Potash Hill campus. Although the coronavirus pandemic prevented the college from holding in-person commencement ceremonies and other activities, the graduating class of 2020 was celebrated by a commencement video, which they were able to enjoy with their family and friends. This on-line solution was developed in response to feedback and suggestions from graduating students, and captures the spirit of an in-person ceremony with speeches, music, and multimedia displays illustrating student accomplishments. The students simultaneously received a package from the college with their regalia, diploma, and other items to help them celebrate with their loved ones. See the whole commencement video.

From the remarks of President Kevin Quigley
Thinking about the arc of your lives, I am reminded that you have been through so much to get to this moment… and everyone in the Marlboro community is very proud of you. Your lives have been shaped by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Great Recession, the growing evidence of irreparable damage to planet earth, and the stark reminders of the persistence of racism, sexism and demonization of those different from us. On top of all of that, your lives have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and a global economic trauma unlike anything since the Great Depression. Given these myriad disruptions around your life, you have shown remarkable flexibility and resilience. 

From the remarks of student speaker Lydia Nuhfer ’20 
People are saying it feels like the end of the world. But before I talk about the world, I want to talk about Potash Hill, about our home. Because it is still here, even without us. Right now as I record this the trout lilies are blooming, and the wood violets, and the coltsfoot flowers have given way to leaves. Potash Hill—the hemlock trees, the woodpeckers, the quiet stone walls burying themselves in the woods—these things have seen us. The strange crawfish making homes in the fire pond, the rotting apples, the spring mud, that cold sap of the earth—all of these and more have witnessed us, held and beheld us. Some of us for long decades, some only for a semester or two.

From the remarks of student speaker Simon Renault MSM ’20 
The current crisis teaches us that we will be faced with a lot of unknown. Yet, in that unknown, may lie the truth of who we are as humans. As a species, we instinctively too often run away from the dangerous unpredictability of natural systems to design our own systems: ones we can predict, manipulate and control. And yet, Can we really run away from the messiness of life and being alive on this Earth? We cling to what is and sadly suffer when things fall apart. And yet, let’s together see beyond the ending of things and understand that it is just another iteration of a never ending cycle. Let us embrace aliveness. Let’s push the edges of discovery, together let’s learn to adapt to a life that will, anyway, forever be unpredictable and uncertain.

From the remarks of faculty speaker Jennifer Girouard ’01 
At Marlboro, you accomplished something you didn’t think possible. You came close to giving up but your friends and faculty and staff encouraged you to push through. And now there is this small, hard rock of pride you carry with you. Marlboro is that tiny pebble that you can hold in your palm or place in your pocket as a reminder that you are resilient, that you are capable of big things, and that you will continue to question the world and learn from those around you.



From the valediction by Charlie Hickman ’21 
It is my hope that we can all come back together on Potash Hill when it is safe to do so, but I again acknowledge the fact that any future gathering will not repair our loss. I guess that is it, my requisite piece of benedictory advice. Live into the contradiction. Hold the bad with the good, the mess with the beauty, the obstacles with the possibilities, and the ends with the beginnings. I feel so lucky to have been able to experience Marlboro. Not just because of the academic freedom, the governance structure, and the beauty of the campus, but primarily because of this community that continues to astound me. Though this chapter is closing, my wish is that we continue to astound each other and the world.

For full transcripts of speakers’ comments, as well as the lists of graduates and academic prizes, go to marlboro.edu/comm2020.