Hampshire College Commencement 2023 Celebrated Graduates’ Spirited Triumphs
Four years after a crisis, the campus community came together to applaud everything they'd overcome.
On Saturday, May 20, Hampshire College hosted its 53rd Commencement ceremony, conferring degrees to 68 graduates. The group was composed of transfers, those who deferred or took time off during the pandemic, and five who entered in the fall of 2019 after the previous administration decided not to enroll a full class. They were joined by family, friends, and caregivers celebrating their accomplishments.
President Ed Wingenbach opened his remarks by reflecting on a message sent to admitted students during that fateful spring, stating, “That letter, seemingly designed to discourage you from coming or returning, made some outrageous statements, and I think, four years later, some of those claims bear evaluating.”
“‘We are only able to guarantee your enrollment for the fall 2019 semester,’” he quoted, before remarking, “I think we just finished spring 2023, right?” as the tent went up in cheers. He read again from the letter: “‘We are not able to assure you that any baccalaureate degree you may earn would be issued by Hampshire College.’” Wingenbach then held aloft a square diploma holder bearing the seal and name of the College. “Congratulations to all of you for earning a Bachelor of Arts from Hampshire College!” he exclaimed with a smile.
Additional addresses were made by Postal Assistant Jim Patten, Board of Trustees Chair Jose Fuentes 05F, and Associate Professor of Cognitive Development Melissa Burch, who saluted the graduates with, “Congratulations to the class that almost wasn’t.”
Student speaker Pinko Higgins 21F regaled their classmates, carrying on the theme: “I think celebrating that we were able to maintain our existence is just a bit lackluster. It just doesn’t nearly give credit to the amazing spirit that our community has, whether it was the financial crisis, the pandemic, or when the Bridge was only open Thursday through Saturday.” They paused for laughs, “We have seen it all and faced it all together.”
The keynote speaker was Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, a disability and transformative justice movement worker, who told the new grads: “You have everything you need, not only inside yourselves, but together. We have nothing to lose but to go and give everything to make the future we deserve. And you are some of the people — and I’m not gassing you up — I truly have the most faith in to continue to make the wild unexpected. I can’t wait to fight beside you and love with you.”
Board member and founder/Co-CEO of Trademark Event Productions, Inc., Elle Chan 87F welcomed the new grads to the alumni community. “You’ll find there is an immediate commonality in the uniqueness of each of our Hampshire journeys,” she said. “Tell the world you went to Hampshire. Because this is just the beginning of your journey as an alum.”
Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Omar Dahi then handed out diplomas and graduates shook hands with President Wingenbach. Jim Patten closed the ceremony.