Connecticut College celebrates 104th commencement

May 23—NEW LONDON — The sound of bagpipes at 10:30 a.m. started the processional to Connecticut College's 104th commencement on Sunday.

Family and friends stood along both sides cheering on the 422 graduates as they walked across Tempel Green.

President Katherine Bergeron declared the ceremony officially opened and said it was moving to see all of the soon-to-be graduates knowing they have all lived through so much over the past two years. She expressed gratitude for all the ways they kept showing up in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Commencement is a day of honor ... and belongs to all of you," Bergeron said.

Bergeron noted some of the class accomplishments — publishing a paper with a professor, talking at an academic conference, directing a major production — and upholding the school's 100-year-old Honor Code.

The code, created by students in 1922, is a system based on trust that sets the tone for campus life and acts as a philosophy to live by. Bergeron said the code has instilled a shared sense of honor among the graduates whether by means of individual or communal acts.

Emma Gould of Williamsburg, Mass., was selected as the senior class speaker. Gould is an English major and writer, traveling abroad and winning multiple awards for her writing.

"Look at this day as a beginning," Gould advised her classmates. "The word commencement itself denotes beginning."

During the ceremony, graduate Hana Miriam Tanabe was awarded the Oakes and Louise Ames Prize while Jacob Koi Nozaki was awarded the Anna Lord Strauss Medal.

Before speaking, keynote speaker Deborah Bial received an honorary degree for her work as the founder and president of the Posse Foundation. Through the foundation, Bial has worked with higly selective colleges to create a system of support for underrepresented students.

Since 1989, the foundation has matched more than 10,000 students with $1.6 billion in leadership scholarships from its more than 60 partner colleges and universities.

"You've had a tough past few years," Bial told the graduating class. "To be here in the sunshine, it's a good feeling."

Hundreds of family members and friends sat in the warm sun Sunday to see their beloved graduates.

Danny Siewertson of Scarborough, Maine, was there to see his granddaughter Samantha walk onto the stage. Siewertson said he didn't go to college and his son was the first one to go. He said he's always been big on education.

Siewsertson said his granddaughter is the brains of the family, graduating with two majors and heading to graduate school.

"She is so dedicated and self-motivated. When she decides she's going to do something, she does it," he said.

Gloria Kunja drove seven hours from Bar Harbor, Maine, to attend the ceremony. Kunja worked at Connecticut College in the Registrars Office in 2017. She was the host mom for a few of the international students graduating Sunday.

Kunja said she met them when they were just freshmen and now they are graduating, one of them moving to Washington to work at Microsoft.

"Many of them became like my children," she said.

Lisa Torres of Chicago was one of the many students graduating and stopping by the water station to hydrate. Torres studied sociology and Hispanic studies.

Torres described her four years at Connecticut College as stressful but also full of fun memories. She said she was most proud of the people she met, getting to know them and building a community.

"It feels good to do this for them," Torres said, referring to her family. "My mom was the first to graduate."

Torres said it was a struggle to get to this point and agreed to being proud of herself.