Hampshire College Commencement 2024 Celebrated Graduates Who Endured Uncertainty, COVID, and Political Upheaval

The ceremony started with student moderator Abdul Raffey Shakoor 21S, followed by a welcome from Board of Trustees Chair Jose Fuentes 05F and a land acknowledgment by Assistant Dean of Collaborative and Community-Engaged Learning Javiera Benavente. President Ed Wingenbach then began his remarks by noting the leap of faith that many students took in 2020 when they enrolled after the College’s crisis the previous year, as well as having to navigate learning during a global pandemic:  

“Thank you all for the risks you took in coming to Hampshire, and the idealism about what education can be — for yourself, your community, and the world — that inspired that choice,” Wingenbach said. “I hope Hampshire, even with all its complications and challenges, ultimately helped you in your journey to become the kind of person you aspire to be and make the impact on the world which you seek.”

Assistant Professor of Creative Writing & African American Literary Arts Nathan McClain, who had been nominated to speak by the graduates, was unable to attend, as his wife had a baby the night before; instead, Michelle Hardesty, dean of Humanities and Arts and associate professor of U.S. literatures and cultural studies, delivered his prepared speech, which ended this way:

“History will ask, But what did you do? And this class will be able to say they lent their voices to lift the silenced, to lift those who sadly no longer have a university to attend. Who also deserve a future, like the ones each of you will be stepping into.”

Keynote speaker Chelsea Manning, advocate for government transparency and queer and transgender rights, addressed the 2024 class:

“As thinker and activist Audre Lorde, renowned for her insightful explorations of self-care, identity, and systemic inequalities, once observed: ‘Caring for myself is not self-indulgence; it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.’ This quote resonates with me, as it frames healing not just as a personal choice but as an essential, empowering act that enables us to face the world’s challenges more effectively.

“The most important advice I can give you at this crossroads is to ensure that you take care of yourself.”

Additional addresses were delivered by Dining Commons cashier Waylen Frost, student speaker Elijah Pluchino 20F, and alum and board member Ananda Valenzuela 07F.

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Gary Hawkins then handed out diplomas and the newly minted graduates shook hands with President Wingenbach. Waylen Frost closed the ceremony.

>> View photos from the weekend’s celebration.

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