The Pine Manor College campus was bustling with pride and excitement on May 14th, as the first class of the new millennium celebrated their graduation. With the sun beaming brilliantly on flowers in full bloom, each member of the Class of 2000 was awarded her diploma and began looking ahead to a future filled with opportunity.
The help commemorate the occasion and address the graduates, Pine Manor invited four pro9mienant and professionally diverse women who uniquely reflect PMC's mission. the main speaker was Catherine Bertini, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, the world's largest food aid agency. Honorary degrees were also awarded to Deborah Prothrow-Stith, associate dean at the Harvard School of Public Health; Karen Smyers, 1999 U.S. Triathlete of the Year; and Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio. "All these women are true role models of perseverance, caring and responsibility," said President Nemerowicz. "Each one of them personifies inclusive leadership and social responsibility in a way that is reflective of their own individual personalities."
The first woman to ever head a UN organization, Catherine Bertini oversees an organization with seemingly impossible goal of feeding 830 million starving people worldwide. The World Food Programme aims to avert starvation in humanitarian crises through emergency operations, as well as to promote long-term development projects to break the hunger-poverty cycle.
In her Commencement address, Bertini told PMC graduates that they, "like every woman on this earth, are catalysts for change." She reminded them that they are part of the College because of the profound impact of Helen Temple Cooke and the sixteen high school senior who began the Pine Manor tradition 89 years ago.
"We are here today the direct descendants of those seventeen women, who, by their actions, created Pine Manor College," Bertini said. "Do you think that they ever imagined that almost a century later, the impact of their actions would still be molding the lives of young women today?"
Bertini continued, "Every woman molds live - starting with her own - but touching hundreds more more in her lifetime - her children, her parents, her family, her community... There is one constant - a woman. She might be the mother, the grandmother, the sister, the aunt. But it is almost as if there is no family without a woman, and there never a community with mostly women sustaining it."
After receiving her PMC honorary degree, NPR's Nina Totenberg also emphasized to the graduates their potential lifelong Pine Manor bond. Totenberg began with a light-hearted "ditty" she composed about the aspirations of a PMC graduate as she ventured out into the world. Upon concluding, Totenberg added, "I wish I could tell you that life will be as much as my ditty suggests. In truth, it is sometimes ever better, and sometimes a good deal worse. But you will have an enormous advantage in the good times and the bad...that advantage is the young women seated all around today."
Totenberg shared her own difficult story about her husband who died after a tragic fall on a patch of ice several years ago. "Take it from me, your female friends will be your life lines in ways nobody else can be and in circumstances you never imagined.. There is something very special about women friends...an identity, a connection, even a salvation."
Ironman triathlon champion Karen Smyers addressed the Class of 2000 about important life lessons as well. Smyers has an impressive record of athletic achievements, which include three World Championship triathlon titles and the Professional National Champion title for sex consecutive years. She also competed last spring in the Olympic trials for the triathlon's debut in Sydney this fall. From the outset, she seems tough as nails, but in reality, she's as vulnerable as anyone else.
Like Totenberg, Smyers has learned her lessons the hard way. "Some of life's hurdles that I have encountered in the last three years are a severed hamstring from a broken window, a 48-hour labor and Cesarean section during the birth of my daughter, a run-in with an 18-wheeler while cycling, a broken collarbone suffered just months before the biggest race of my career, and to top it off, a recent diagnosis of thyroid cancer."
Despite these potentially career-ending crises, Smyers has never quit, choosing to focus on the positive side. "What sometimes appears to be bad luck is actually good luck in disguise," insisted Smyers. "My severed hamstring presented me with the perfect opportunity to take maternity leave, the childbirth raised my pain threshold for future races, my truck accident allowed me extra time at home my infant daughter, and the broken left collarbone evened out my swim stroke from the separated right shoulder I suffered in the truck accident!"
Although Smyers' athletic career is, by nature, very results-oriented, she told the graduates that the pursuit of a goal is the important part. In looking ahead to the Olympic trials, Smyers explained that she was prepared for both success and failure. "If you are pursuing a goal that is truly worthy of your efforts," she added, "you must encounter failure or your probably are not challenging yourself enough."
Smyers concluded by advising the graduates, "to choose goals which are worthy of your efforts and which you are passionate about, pursue these goals with all the gusto you can muster, and take care to enjoy the journey, as it is often as important and enriching as the destination,"
Indeed, May 14th was an exciting and uplifting day as the Pine Manor community gave a royal sendoff to the Class of 2000. When Deborah Prothrow-Stith, associate dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, received her honorary degree, she summed up the day as she addressed the graduates: "We look forward to your careers, and we look forward to each of you helping us in the world. To Pine Manor College, the Trustees, your President, and the people who are really making the dreams of young women come true, I thank you."
Mon, May 15, 2000
by Kimberley Pyles, Pine Manor College Bulletin