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Welcome - Chair, Board of Managers

Koof Kalkstein claps while standing at podium

Hello everyone and good morning. My name is Koof Kalkstein, Class of 1978 and chair of the Board of Managers. I am delighted to welcome all of you here today to Swarthmore College’s 152nd Commencement!

I want to begin by congratulating the Class of 2024!

Learning. Achievement. Persistence. Camaraderie. Just a few of the words that exemplify your class. I am confident that I speak for everyone here today in expressing great admiration for how you have navigated your time here at Swarthmore during the uncertainties and challenges of the pandemic and in an increasingly roiled world.

You have had the privilege to pursue both purpose and passion at Swarthmore, surrounded by your fellow students and the wonderful, committed faculty and staff that have shaped your experiences here. Along with your academic work you have taken advantage of the myriad of co-curricular and extra curricular activities of the College. With them you have formed bonds within a varied set of circles, reflecting the diversity of the college population and interests. This is your community. Hold on to it, because as you go into the world it will be very hard to replicate or replace.

The Mann Center is not where any of us expected to hold Commencement. Our path here is one made by conflict over goals, principles, and policies, but also by a communal commitment to peaceful engagement. 

As the College explored alternative locations for Commencement, the Mann Center became an appealing option for several reasons, not the least of which is that, as Professor Forrester mentioned, it shares with Swarthmore a number of common values. To quote from the Mann Center’s stated missions and values: “We foster a community marked by openness, fairness, and equality. We value, respect, and leverage our differences …”

Our differences — and our rich diversity of views and experiences — strengthen Swarthmore’s educational experience. They expose us to new ideas, new perspectives, and help prepare graduates to live and work in an evermore diverse society.

This venue has provided joy and inspiration to many over the past 50 years, as I hope it will for us today. You may not remember the words spoken here, but Commencement, wherever it is held, will live in your memory, serving as a celebration of accomplishment and the start of the next chapter of your life. 

Over the next day, as you say au revoir to your friends, I urge you to also take a few minutes, alone, to walk about the Swarthmore campus. Even when your circles of friends are no longer there, the College will remain, beautiful as ever, ready to welcome you back.

On behalf of the Board of Managers, I want to once again welcome everyone to today’s celebration. You will soon hear from our acting co-presidents, the Class of 2024 student chosen to speak by the graduating class, and our honorary degree recipients who will share their perspectives with us. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen, unavoidable circumstances, Joseph Alutzarra '05, one of the three selected recipients was unable to be here with us today. Joseph sends his deep regrets, along with his warmest and sincere congratulations to the Class of 2024. 

To the members of the Class of 2024, well done and congratulations!