Joan Cannady Countryman '62
My name is Joan Cannady Countryman. I'm a member of the class of 1962, and I have to admit that I'm having memories of the last time I stood at the podium, which was when I graduated from Sarah Lawrence. I'm also a member of the Board of Trustees, as you heard. The board includes alumni, alumnae, parents of alums, friends of Sarah Lawrence College from the local and wider community. The board, as all good boards do, focuses on the mission, the vision, and the future of this College, with its long, long traditions of scholarship, service, a profound commitment to the arts and social and political activism. The most important and challenging achievement of any board of trustees is its selection of a president. We are proud of our work in that regard. And we are delighted to welcome Karen R. Lawrence as tenth President of Sarah Lawrence. We look forward to her leadership of this College that we cherish. Thank you.
Stephanie R. Cooper '65, M.F.A. '76
Karen, greetings, and greetings to all of you from all of the alumnae/i of Sarah Lawrence College. I am Stephanie Cooper, President of the Sarah Lawrence Alumnae/i Association. I am pleased and honored to convey congratulations to Karen from our entire community. There are almost 16,000 Sarah Lawrence alumnae/i, 15,782 to be precise. Of that number, nearly 11,000 have an undergraduate degree; 10,910. In all, nearly 3,000 of our alumnae/i have earned one or more graduate degrees among that number. Two hundred and ten of them, myself happily included, have master's degrees from this college. My masters is an M.F.A. in chamber music, which, it may surprise you to know, I find frequently very useful in my day job as an attorney. Knowing Sarah Lawrence College graduates, however, this may not surprise you at all.
Our community represents all 50 states, the District of Columbia, several U.S. territories and 64 foreign countries. I think you will also enjoy knowing that there are seven living alumnae/i from the first class, the class of 1930. They are Lydia Auchincloss, Francis Cambere, Margaret De Mott, Mary Edson, Rosamond Beach, Dorothy Sammis, and Elizabeth Williams. Assuming those alumnae/i were all about 20 when they graduated, their longevity is admirable. Perhaps I go too far in attributing their long lives to the spirit the College imbues in its alumnae/i. However, I take this as an opportunity at this signal day to note the special spirit of inquiry and love of knowledge, the energy and commitment to the development of the individual and to the common good that are quintessentially the traits of Sarah Lawrence alumnae/i and that sustain us in the larger world.
Sarah Lawrence is in some way a part of each of us, and we comprise the Sarah Lawrence community in many and highly varied ways. Whatever our paths, we are a select group of individuals with that Sarah Lawrence je-ne-sais-quoi. We have gone on to make the world a better and far-more interesting place than it would have been without us. We, the alumnae/i, represent what this College has achieved and will continue to achieve in the future. On behalf of the entire community, then, may our legacy and collective intelligence, our energy, our generosity, and our creativity sustain Sarah Lawrence and our new President Karen Lawrence for many, many years to come.
Clare Hipschman '08
Good afternoon, members of the Sarah Lawrence Community and friends of the College. My name is Claire Hipschman, and I bring greetings to President Lawrence on behalf of the undergraduate student body. I'm a senior, and after spending the last three years learning and growing here, I thought that the best way I could welcome you would be to present a few gifts that will help you to acclimate more quickly to this environment.
The Sarah Lawrence Community is a peculiar and wonderful one filled with individuals passionate about knowledge. Any transition takes time, of course, but hopefully these gifts will facilitate that process for you. The first present I have for you is a pen from the dispenser on the staircase heading up to the top floor of the library.
Apart from making a fashion statement by having two sections of colored plastic that are pretty much guaranteed to clash, these pens have been a life-saver for any student that has settled in for an all-nighter during conference time at the library, only to realize that she or he forgot the pen. The next thing I have is a mug. While it would be a lie to say that we not have our fair share of coffee drinkers, tea seems to be the beverage of choice, more often than not. I invite you to bring your new mug to the teahouse where you can drink delicious tea while taking in an atmosphere that is second to none. Finally, I must admit that although this is an intellectual community, we're not protected from the pitfalls of fashion trends and superficiality. With that, I'd like to give you this tote bag from the Strand Bookstore...
I must add, for as far as I can tell, the majority of undergraduate students between this bag, a mug filled with tea and a pen from the library, you'll fit right in.
I have heard you say a number of times that the Sarah Lawrence experience has been described as being transformative, based on my experience that word sums up Sarah Lawrence perfectly. I started as a shy first-year three years ago, lacking intellectual confidence, and feeling intimidated by the passion that seems to pour out of so many individuals here. Throughout the past three years, I've watched the college change, and I have shed that skin and become an individual more like those whom I admired upon first entering the college. Sarah Lawrence has been a truly transformative place for me, President Lawrence, and I hope it will be for you as well. Welcome.
Julie Reichling M.S. '08
Good morning. My name is Julie Reichling. I am a graduate student here at Sarah Lawrence. As a member of the Graduate Student Senate, and on behalf of all of the graduate programs at Sarah Lawrence College, I would like to extend a warm welcome to Dr. Karen Lawrence as our new President. In the past, members of the Sarah Lawrence community have gone above and beyond to establish innovative graduate programs to fit the needs of many growing fields. The art of teaching and child development programs are at the cutting edge of their fields, challenging students not only to explore the theoretical and dynamic basis of their work but also providing them with extensive opportunities for field work. The writing program offers a wealth of rich opportunities to foster creative thinking through collaborative process. The dance and theater programs bestow their students with a wide range of interdisciplinary studies that will provide them with a broad basis for their future careers. Lastly, three of our eight graduate programs at Sarah Lawrence, including Women's History, Human Genetics, and Health Advocacy, were the first of their kind in the country. It is the character of these graduate programs that establishes the reputation for excellence around the country. As the Graduate Student Body of Sarah Lawrence College, we have no doubt that Dr. Karen Lawrence will continue to carry and build upon this foundation of distinction. It is with great pleasure that we receive Dr. Lawrence as the new President of Sarah Lawrence College.
Charling C. Fagan, Director of Libraries/Academic Computing
Good morning. I'm Charling Fagan, Director of Libraries and Academic Computing. And I agree, those pens are very popular.
Welcome, Karen. On behalf of all the administrative staff, welcome. Years ago, when I hung up after Alice offered me the job as Director of Libraries, I thought to myself, "Yikes! What have I done?" But I quickly realized that I was not doing it alone and neither are you. I recall saying to you some months ago that the College's hidden treasure lies in this remarkable community of people who work here. It is a group of people who love the College, believe in its mission and work tirelessly to carry it out. We look forward to your leadership in the years to come. You do not have an easy task. In fact, it would be easier if you had to walk on water (but you seem to have some influence on the weather...). But be please be assured that the staff is here to assist you in every way, and we are confident that under your guidance, the college will continue to prosper and grow.
Ann Lauinger, Literature Faculty Member
Salvete, vos omnes! Mihi munus est—munus et decus et dulcedo—pro collegis meis professoribus vobis salutem dicere atque Karenam Lawrence ad Sarah Lawrence excipere.
My name is Ann Lauinger, and it is my duty—a duty which is both a privilege and a pleasure—on behalf of my colleagues, the faculty, to greet you all and to welcome Karen Lawrence to Sarah Lawrence. I ventured on my rusty Latin (which is now just about exhausted!) because I thought it should be known that we faculty members can not only, as you've just seen, walk the medieval academic walk—we can also talk the medieval academic talk!
Of course, being president of a college is very much about talking the talk. But it is also about thinking the thought. There are many things to admire about Karen, many qualities and experiences that fit her for the job she is now beginning: her formidable intelligence, which is both deep and quick; her energy and capacity for hard work; and her low-key, dry sense of humor?which suggests good stress-management skills—at least, we all hope so!
But we on the faculty, who take pride in our role as "the cornerstone" of Sarah Lawrence—or is it the backbone? The spirit? The keystone?—are proud also that our new president is one of us—who has had a sustained and distinguished career as a teacher and scholar. We take special delight in welcoming Karen to the College because she comes not only with the accomplishments of an administrator but with the habits of mind of a faculty member. Trained herself in a discipline, she prizes learning as we do and knows the power of the disciplined mind—to give persuasive form to perceptions; to untangle dissonances and tease out connections; to body forth imagination.
I can't close without saying that all of us who study literature must find it particularly fitting that Karen, whose specialties include both Joyce's Ulysses and the literature of travel, has made her own odyssey from the east coast to the west coast and back again. On behalf of the faculty, Karen, welcome home. Thank you all—vobis gratias ago.
Carol T. Christ, President, Smith College
Good morning. I'm Carol Christ, and I'm the President of Smith College. I'm particularly pleased to welcome Karen Lawrence on behalf of the liberal arts colleges. My husband and I have known and admired Karen for many years, and I, myself, made the same journey that Karen has just made, from the University of California to the presidency of a Sister College. Like Karen, I grew up in the East and thought that after many years in California, I was coming home. However, I discovered that life in California had softened me.
I had forgotten several survival skills essential to living in the Northeast. In my nostalgia for the seasons, I had forgotten Winter. In my frustration with California freeway gridlock, I had forgotten potholes, road construction projects that go on for years, streets whose names change with every town border, and taxi drivers who never want to give away their next move. But once you learn to deal again with real weather and New York driving, I know that you will discover all of the deep pleasures and rewards of leading a liberal arts college.
You will learn that it is a single intellectual community in which faculty talk across the disciplines. You will take joy in the intense engagement that faculty have with their students' educations. You will experience the remarkable unanimity of purpose among trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and students, who want nothing more than the greatest excellence to which Sarah Lawrence aspires. The road will not always be smooth, for deep engagement can bring disagreement. I recently attended an international meeting of the presidents of women's colleges worldwide. A president from a women's college in India repeated the blessing that her culture bestows on her educational leaders, and I repeat it to you. "May you have the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of the lion, the cunning of Machiavelli, and the stomach of a goat."
Welcome to the sisterhood of liberal arts presidents.
Nancy Cantor '74, Chancellor, Syracuse University
Good morning. I'm Nancy Cantor, and as a Sarah Lawrence alumna and as Chancellor and President of Syracuse University, it is a great pleasure to bring greetings on behalf of universities to President Lawrence, to Karen, on this wonderful day. We are also fortunate that Michele nurtured and enhanced this special college so well, and we are all so happy that it is in such good hands going forward. Karen Lawrence is a perfect president for Sarah Lawrence. In fact, I'm quite sure the coincidence of names is fated, as many have said and will say many times today. Karen, when I read your first letter to the Sarah Lawrence Community, I thought you must surely have known this place a long time. You reminded us of the core mission of the college, providing an individualized education so that each student can take personal ownership of learning, lifelong. And that reminded me of what you will soon find, that is, that whatever room you entire, the smartest, most lively person in it will be a Sarah Lawrence alum, perhaps, excepting yourself...because that mark of inventive self-education sticks with Sarah Lawrence students long after leaving Bronxville.
Yet, individualism at Sarah Lawrence is not an end in itself. Education at Sarah Lawrence is cultivated through deep immersion in a collaborative context of give-and-take, of interdependence, of relationships, of communication serving to direct us to accept not only individual ownership but communal responsibility, in this highly taxed and deeply divided and divisive world in which we live. In this way, I suspect that Sarah Lawrence and Karen Lawrence share a lot in common, most specifically, a passion for others, for making our world less about the haves and the have-nots, for not, as you wrote in that letter, treading water, but swimming fast against the currents that divide us, the ignorance that tricks us into thinking we are alone or, rather, can thrive alone, and for using education as a path to transformation of each one of us together. This college shows all of us in higher education what it means to do really well at individualized education with a public purpose, what it means to move beyond the self into the world to make it better.
I know that you, Karen, fit that world perfectly, for, to quote your author, James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, "When the soul of man is born in this country, there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talked to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets." And you will, Karen. And you will take Sarah Lawrence with you to new heights and new freedoms and new public purposes. Thank you for coming here, and greetings from all your university colleagues .
Philip Lewis, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
I'm Philip Lewis, Vice President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. I am privileged to bring greetings to the college and to President Lawrence from the world of philanthropic foundations, and, in particular, from those foundations that support the cause of higher education. Over the past three decades, the Mellon Foundation's program for the nation's top liberal arts colleges has given more than $5.5 million to Sarah Lawrence. The most recent of our grants, and we're happy not really to be recognized for it, which came near the end of Michele Myers' distinguished tenure as your President, was among the largest we have ever made to a single college. Our contributions should be understood by you, the members of the Sarah Lawrence community, as signaling our respect for the special identity you have achieved as a bastion of intensive and artful liberal education. They also bespeak the confidence we have in your faculty, and your institutional leadership. At the Mellon Foundation, we are committed primarily to nurturing the humanities and the arts. It is thus fitting for me as the Foundation's representative to applaud the appointment of a superb scholar and teacher of literature to serve as your tenth president.
My colleagues and I have already met with President Lawrence, and we have assured her of our intention to respond generously to the needs and aspirations she will be articulating on behalf of her new academic home. As you have, doubtless, realized, in higher education, inaugurations nearly always occur after the fact, after the sacrificial victim has already taken up her role and become fully consumed by the burdens of leading a distinguished but very demanding institution. A collegial inauguration rite, therefore, is an occasion for us to assert our solidarity with her. It is an occasion for renewing communal commitments. So, the college's friends at the Mellon Foundation would like to believe that at this inaugural moment, beyond celebrating the distinction of Karen Lawrence and Sarah Lawrence, many of you will join with the Foundation in recognizing their worthiness of your ongoing support. Thank you.
Philip A. Amicone, Mayor, Yonkers
Good morning. My name is Phil Amicone, and I'm the Mayor of the City of Yonkers, and I come here today to welcome Dr. Lawrence to a very large family, not just the family of Sarah Lawrence College but the family of Yonkers. Before I continue that, I do want to say thank you to Michele Myers who has been an extraordinary leader in this college but also for the city of Yonkers; she has been a true professional, and it's been a pleasure to work with her over the years, and I wish her much success in her new career as a writer. To Dr. Lawrence, I had the pleasure of meeting her earlier this year and talking about what we share, what Sarah Lawrence College and the city of Yonkers share and what she was getting herself into...
We share not only an address, Yonkers, New York, but we share a commitment. And I mean that we do mutually share a commitment, and that's through education. Sarah Lawrence College has been a very important part of the education system of the city of Yonkers, with many of its students working with our public school students as they have over many years, and a commitment that she has made to continue that, and that's very important. It's certainly important to us in the city, because like any other family, there are times when we don't always get along so well. But in the end we're always pulling in the same direction, and that direction is toward a better life and a better future for everyone but especially those young people who will follow us, those young people who will be, hopefully, better leaders than we are, who will make for a better world than we've been able to make. And that only happens through great education.
So, I want to thank Sarah Lawrence College and welcome Dr. Lawrence as its new President, to share in that commitment, to make sure that those future generations, with the help of the students and the faculty of Sarah Lawrence, working with our children, that those future generations do live in a better world than we do today, of their own making but because of the great instruction and the help that we will be able to give them, and I can commit to Dr. Lawrence and to Sarah Lawrence that the city of Yonkers will always be there sharing that dream with you and working with you to achieve it. Thank you.
Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Bronxville
I'm Mary Marvin, mayor of the Village of Bronxville, and, President Lawrence, on behalf of the citizens of Bronxville, I extend warmest greetings and welcome you to a community of friends. The history of the village of Bronxville and Sarah Lawrence College is so closely intertwined that I can truly say we have been friends since birth. We not only share the same founder, William Van Duzer Lawrence, but we also share his vision to positively and profoundly affect the physical and social character of both our communities. Today, I want to reaffirm our commitment to continue the tradition of partnering the village of Bronxville with Sarah Lawrence College for the enrichment of all our residents. Sarah Lawrence brings a level of energy, diversity, and intellectual vigor to our community that is prized. And, President Lawrence, I'm also hopeful that you will serve as a bridge between your two communities, Bronxville and Yonkers, and galvanize us to work together in unprecedented ways. I think the opportunities are endless. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "the only way to have a friend is to be a friend." And, President Lawrence, you have a friend in the people of Bronxville.