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Community Offers Collective Well-Wishes for Class of 2020

Quote reading "Dare to be Wise"

Prior to the virtual Commencement for the Class of 2020,  Swarthmore’s faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and even current students were eager to share in earnest the inspiration they felt from the seniors who will receive their diplomas on May 24.

We offer a collective and rousing cheer to our senior class with these personal messages from the Swarthmore community. Though you may not hear the joyful applause on Sunday, we are all celebrating your achievement in one of the College’s most historic commencements. The following are just some of the well-wishes we received.

Advancement Office

“This pandemic may well be the biggest lesson you learn while at Swarthmore. And it is a lesson you’ll teach yourself: how to live differently, accept change, cope with tragedy, deal with loss while stepping out into a world that needs you desperately. So go forward knowing we are so proud of you. Fix the future using all your creativity, knowledge, and above all, love!
— Marty Roelandt, Associate Director of Alumni and Parent Engagement

“I found my people at Swarthmore. They’re the ones I check in with every single day, even 12 years after my own graduation, and they’re still the first people I turn to when I want to celebrate a joy, process a sadness, or simply just share a joke. When I left campus in 2008, I feared an ending; all I could see was a geographical distance stretching between us all. Now, I understand my time on campus as merely a beginning. Congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished, despite everything the world has thrown at you. I want to assure you that this incredible community you’ve found — your friends — will be with you forever, and they will cheer you on no matter what comes next.”
— Nick Forrest ’08, Assistant Director of Marketing 

“Congratulations to the Class of 2020! Thank you for all your leadership, conversation, and camaraderie while you were here on campus as students — I’m so excited to get to know you as you begin your journey as alumni. You will always be part of your alma mater’s wide network of alumni, staff, and faculty, and we’re cheering for you every step of the way. Don’t hesitate to reach out, and to keep in touch!
— Caitlin Halloran Edwards, Associate Director of Volunteers

“Congratulations today and best wishes for all your tomorrows. The Swarthmore experience is a movement — we hope the Swarthmore education moves you forward today and beyond to pave the way for future Swatties.” 
— Susie Kwon, Assistant Director of Individual Giving

Business Office

“Life is unpredictable and often doesn't produce the outcome we desire, but try to find joy in every situation.” 
—  Ernest Wright, Budget Director

"I want to assure you that this incredible community you’ve found — your friends — will be with you forever, and they will cheer you on no matter what comes next," says Nick Forrest ’08, Assistant Director of Marketing ​​​​​​.

Center for Innovation and Leadership

“I find the goodness and happiness in my life comes from the many small- and medium-size moments I’ve had over time. My hope for the Class of 2020 is to take the time to reflect on and enjoy the memories of these moments: the late nights spent with friends, the laughs over meals, the classes and faculty who pushed you to find new meanings, and maybe even Cake Fridays in the CIL. I am constantly impressed by you. I am so very, very proud of you. You keep me optimistic for our future. So ... dream BIG, have some fun, work together, and onward my friends! You did the thing! Congrats!”
— Katie Clark, Director of the Center for Innovation and Leadership


“Many of you I taught as first-year students in my first semester teaching at the College. To watch you grow into the artists, investigators, and thinkers you are today has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. May you continue to grow and leave your impact on our world. Congratulations, Class of 2020!”
— Kathryn Riley ’10, Assistant Professor of Analytical Chemistry, who also offered the following quotation:

“Beneath the effort directed toward the accumulation of worldly goods lies all too frequently the illusion that this is the most substantial and desirable end to be achieved; but there is, fortunately, a minority composed of those who recognize early in their lives that the most beautiful and satisfying experiences open to humankind are not derived from the outside, but are bound up in the development of the individual’s own feeling, thinking, and acting. The genuine artists, investigators and thinkers have always been persons of this kind.”
— Albert Einstein

Chester Children’s Chorus

“As you celebrate your accomplishments, please know that you have many admirers and supporters within the community. We at the Chester Children’s Chorus are proud to work with Swarthmore students and wish that we could have seen our graduating math coaches in person for an end-of-year celebration. Thank you for working with our children so that they can be the very best versions of themselves. You inspired them with your warmth, caring, and brilliance. With lots of love, gratitude, and very best wishes.”
— Dana Semos, Managing and Education Director of the Chester Children’s Chorus


“The Class of ’20 was already a brilliant and impressive group before the 2019–2020 academic year. The character and resilience your class has demonstrated over the last few months has been awe-inspiring, and the whole Swarthmore community has drawn strength from your examples. I think it is safe to say that we will all remember your senior year for the rest of our lives!  Let us hope this time is also remembered as one when more people than ever came to see xenophobic and culture-bound reactions for what they are, and as a time that left us more prepared than ever to address the global and local challenges we will all face together. From the small spaces in which we have all confined ourselves, and through all of the anger and the tears, I hope you find time to sharpen your visions for the future and to appreciate more profoundly how much we all must depend on one another in this world.”  
— Jeremy Lefkowitz, Associate Professor of Classics and Faculty Adviser for Off-Campus Study


“Dear students of the Dance Program. Warmest congratulations on your graduation!  You choreographed innovative dance works and wrote thought-provoking papers, and remained engaged and committed even during these extraordinary times. Your resilience, hard work, and perseverance are inspiring. We are all cheering for your achievements from afar, but hold the memories close to our hearts. You are heading into an unknown world, but we are certain you will be able to navigate the difficulties with care, diligence, and brilliant leadership.”
— Pallabi Chakravorty, Professor and Chair of Dance

"To watch you grow into the artists, investigators, and thinkers you are today has been one of the greatest privileges of my life," says Kathryn Riley ’10, Assistant Professor of Analytical Chemistry.

Dean of Students Division

“Congratulations to the Class of 2020! Your strength and resilience are inspiring. It has been an honor to know you, to learn with you, and to share in your challenges and triumphs. Thank you for countless moments of kindness, curiosity, discovery, critique, and vulnerability. I hope that you may carry both confidence and humility with you on the road ahead.”
— Liz Derickson ’01, Associate Dean of Academic Success

“The IC Team is continuously inspired by the resilience of the seniors and their commitment to the Intercultural Center. We have an entirely new IC team, and the IC seniors worked with us to transfer knowledge, provide guidance, and share their love for the Intercultural Center. It is the dedication of the Class of 2020 that inspired us to do the IC Award Banquet virtually. We knew that we owed it to the Class of 2020 to honor who they are and what they have meant to the Intercultural Center. Class of 2020: Thank you, we will miss you, and we look forward to seeing you when you visit campus!”
— The Intercultural Center Team (Imaani El-Burki, Simone Hayes, Hanan Ahmed ’19, and Tiffany Thompson)

“We have been encouraged by how members of the Class of 2020 have drawn on their diverse religious and spiritual traditions, teachings, practices, and communities to negotiate the challenges of recent months with courage, compassion, and hope. Moving forward, we will continue to hold all members of the Class of 2020 in the light, pray for their smooth and safe transition into this next stage of life, and give thanks for everyone, at Swarthmore and beyond, who enabled them to reach the milestone of their graduation.”
— The Interfaith Center Team (Umar Abdul Rahman, Rabbi Michael Ramberg, Hojin Park, Father John Ames, Lindsey McAleese, and Rabbi Eli Gurevitz)

“Dear international students: If you think back to your international student orientation program and recall our theme, it was Class of 2020 visions of the future. I am sure we couldn’t have imagined that your last semester would end up like this. As international students, you must follow strict immigration regulations; now with COVID-19 you have had to adjust your visions of the future even further. You are experts in navigating challenging situations, yet not being together in person is heartbreaking. You never cease to amaze me with your strength and resilience. You have made a positive impact on our community, and please know you have truly enhanced my life as well. Please continue to support one another with care and compassion, as you have always done, and keep in touch with the ISC! Be well, be safe.”
— Jennifer Marks-Gold, Assistant Dean and Director of International Student Programs

“We’ve gotten to know so many of you as we have supported you during your four years at Swarthmore and want to assure all of you that our support doesn’t end at graduation. We are here for you today, tomorrow, during the summer — and always — to encourage you, share opportunities with you, and help you navigate your career and postgraduate journey.”
— Nancy Burkett, Director of Career Services


“In January 1943, the Phoenix editorialized that after the war, ‘normalcy’ merits the wastebasket.” Seventy-seven years later, you, the Class of 2020, are graduating into another world-historical moment and a future full of unknowns. With your wit, intellect, and compassion, each of you is poised to forge a path that upends ‘normalcy’ and breaks new ground, even if we do not yet know what that might look like. I, for one, cannot wait to see the worlds you create. Congratulations to you all!”
— Megan Brown, Assistant Professor of History

“Many people do not get the unique opportunity you have had over these past few months. We’ve been burdened by a collective grief, a collective trauma, a collective stoppage or extending or shortening of time depending on your viewpoint, and what your futures look like will be shaped by your experiences from the year of your graduation in ways few other graduation years have experienced. Look inward and examine what you value in your life and what fulfills you. Look outward at the construct of time and note if you are spending that time according to those values. If not, realign, reset, and begin again. Wake up each day with your values in mind and align them with the hours in your day and make choices on how to spend your time specifically with your values in mind. If those of us at Swarthmore have been questioning and teaching and leading you in accordance with what we believe our values are, you will no doubt go out into the world and make it a better place in even your most minute gestures of each day.”
— Jen Moore, Administrative Assistant for History and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program and Assistant Softball Coach

"I hope that you may carry both confidence and humility with you on the road ahead, ” says Liz Derickson ’01, Associate Dean of Academic Success.

Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility

“The Class of 2020 will always hold a special place for me as we started at Swarthmore at the same time. I met many of them in my first few days here, and I have had the privilege of seeing them transform from teenagers into thoughtful, empathetic, and brave young adults. To the Class of 2020: You have pushed me, you have taught me, and you have inspired me. You’ll always have a home here, no matter where you go. Congratulations!”
— Katie Price, Associate Director of the Lang Center

Peace & Conflict Studies

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” — Kahlil Gibran 

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — Audre Lorde 
— Sa’ed Atshan ’06, Assistant Professor of Peace & Conflict Studies

Physics & Astronomy

“You seniors in the Class of 2020 are about to enter a world as uncertain as any class in the history of the College. Trust that you have been prepared to face the world with both concrete skills and a sense of social justice that will help you face that uncertainty. Good luck and best wishes from the faculty of Swarthmore College.”   
— Michael Brown, Morris L. Clothier Professor of Physics

“Congratulations on this milestone and your accomplishments. We are confident and excited to see what each of you does with the experiences and education you’ve made for yourselves here at Swarthmore. As for me, I will miss seeing you working together in the hallway outside my office on homework problems and enjoying your excellent combination of seriousness and friendliness that I like to think epitomizes Swarthmore.”
— David Cohen, Professor of Astronomy 

Provost’s Office

“Congratulations! This certainly wasn’t the way you or any of us imagined your Commencement day. Like all of you, I wish we were in the gorgeous amphitheater watching each of you walk across the stage to the cheers and cries of your friends, family, and loved ones. You are now joining an exclusive club — it’s one I belong to as well — and that is the club of people who have had the great privilege of both attending and graduating from Swarthmore College. It’s easy to forget (when we are surrounded by so many smart and driven people) how few people there are who earn a four-year college degree. It’s only about a third of the people in the whole world. It’s even easier to forget how few earn a degree from a school like Swarthmore. So I’ll leave you with one final assignment. Remember: “To whom much is given, much will be required.”  You have been given so much, from your parents, your family, your friends, your mentors, your teachers, your coaches, your counselors, yourself. Use well what you have been given. My best wishes to you all.”
— Lynne Steuerle Schofield ’99, Associate Dean of Faculty for Diversity, Recruitment, and Retention and Associate Professor of Statistics


“Class of 2020, as a neuroscientist, I offer some humble advice as you embark on your next adventure: Be like a neuron. First, neurons can be excitatory or inhibitory. (Of course, YOU can be both.) Think about your impact on others, and about the direction of change you mean to produce in yourself and in the world, and act in a way that is consistent with your intentions and beliefs. Second, neurons do not effect change alone. Neurons work together, in concert, with input from others, and only with their cumulative output do they produce movement and action. You are part of many communities; work with them. Third, neuronal connections are plastic (or flexible). Be willing to prune connections that are no longer productive or supportive, and be open to opportunities for growth and extension. Let openness to new information, experiences, thoughts, and ideas guide your future paths. Congratulations! We are all so proud of you.”
— Cat Norris, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Scott Arboretum

“Congratulations to the brilliant, inspiring, and talented Class of 2020. I look forward to following your next adventures in the world. Please remember to always look for the beauty in nature. It will focus and balance you.
— Sue MacQueen, Campus Engagement Coordinator for the Scott Arboretum

"Trust that you have been prepared to face the world with both concrete skills and a sense of social justice that will help you face that uncertainty," offers Michael Brown, Morris L. Clothier Professor of Physics.

Alumni, Students, and Friends

“Take a lot of pictures for memories, keep in touch with your friends — and remember all the important concepts you learned.”
— Betty Chase Odum ’47

“Congratulations on your graduation. In this uncertain period, take time to celebrate before you begin to change the world.
— Richard Truitt ’66

“When my class graduated, our baccalaureate speaker gave us three pieces of advice, which I share with you:

  • Use well thy freedom. (These words are on a Parrish cornerstone.)
  • Sit on your eggs.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Each of these served me well at various times for over 50 years. May you find in them both wisdom and challenge.”
— Jane Lang ’67

Don’t read history; read biography. If you read a history book, you will forget most of it.  If you read a biography, you will remember most of it, because the subject becomes a personal friend.”
 — James Ribe ’69

“You have gotten through Swarthmore. That’s your greatest accomplishment (so far...).  Some days, I still feel that way.”
— Gail Wickham ’73

Power lies in Truth
Dissembling can be costly
Stay honest mostly
Oak leaves caressing —
Magill Walk’s drenched couple
rustling below
— Mark Sabel ’89

“Congratulations! When you are faced with challenges in the future, remember this: You survived Swarthmore so you can survive anything!” 
— Rodliz Gilpin-Jackson ’02

You are all amazing, strong inspirations to younger Swat students. Can’t wait to see the incredible things you all accomplish!”
— Rebecca Putnam ’23

“You know you lived through this unprecedented time, you made it, and we are all very proud of you! As parents, since February, there wasn’t a day gone by we weren’t worried about you — not only do you have to deal with the mountain of school work, but what happens if you get sick? This is like getting your hand tied in the back and put in a boxing ring for a champion fighting match. No one knows what’s out there after COVID-19, but one thing we are absolutely sure of: If this virus did not beat you down, nothing will. This could only be making you even stronger, tougher in your days ahead. We are 100% confident in you because you have fully challenged your resilience — nothing you would be afraid out there in this world.” 
— Allan Lam, parent of a 2020 graduate 

“Trying times for your batch. But there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Persevere and be patient. Strive to earn your job, wherever it may be. The world has changed, so you have to also. Let there be prudence in each step of yours.”
— Jayakrishnan Kaveseri, parent of a 2020 graduate

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