AMHERST – A COVID-19 diagnosis prevented Hampshire College president Ed Wingenbach from attending Saturday’s graduation ceremony that also included students who earned degrees the previous two years.
Public health concerns prevented the college from holding in-person ceremonies in 2020 and 2021 for those seniors.
“Unfortunately, Ed tested positive for COVID on Wednesday,” the school’s board of trustees chair Jose Fuentes said at start of the ceremony.
Fuentes then led a chant of “we miss you, Ed.”
“You have succeeded in rigorous academic work,” Fuentes told the graduates.
The keynote speaker, Loretta Ross, an associate professor of the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College, interleaved humor and lessons learned as a social and African-American rights firebrand, activities that began in earnest when she was 16.
Taking the podium, Rosssaid, “I guess you can’t get enough of a bad thing,” that brought hoots of laughter.
“English is not my first language, Ebonics is,” she said.
“There are too many educational institutions that run away from the truth . . . we want to be told the truth instead of being protected from the truth,” Ross said.
On theories about “The Age of Aquarius,” she said: “I don’t know what that is, but I believe them.”
Speaking about living an activist life, she said, “Now that I’m almost 70 years old … the only way to do it a really long time is to party as hard as you work, and don’t take yourself quite so seriously.”
“Too many people seek fulfillment in what they own, and not who they are,” Ross said. “Offer love and respect and integrity –- it ain’t easy, because so many people piss me off.”
Iyanu Bishop presented the student address, focusing on how community and friendship is the balm to make it through life’s trials and tribulations – and that dogged persistence from students saved the college from closing or being folded into another institution, she said.
“My community lifted me,” Bishop said. “At Hampshire, we are the fire that keeps this going … it is the community that will save us.”