Peter van Dijk '82:
President, Alumni Association

Peter van DijkOn behalf of the entire Sarah Lawrence Alumni Community, it’s a great honor to officially welcome you all to the fold. Now, when you speak on behalf of thousands people, you have to be a little careful. I mean, what kind of message could we all get behind when, let’s face it, it’s hard to get three of us to agree on anything?

So, to hash it out, the 14,000 of us got together last week. And we asked ourselves, “What do we wish we had known on the day we were sitting in the chairs you are sitting in right now?” More specifically, Barbara Walters asked us. She tends to ask the bulk of the questions at these things.

Perhaps not surprisingly, we were unable to reach a unanimous agreement. In fact, the first couple of hours were spent debating whether I should welcome you to our traditional alumnae community; the technically correct, yet patriarchal alumni community, or the vaguely Hawaiian alumni/ae community (Imagine Don Ho singing it and you’ll catch my drift). Well, things got a little heated for a while, but order was restored and the ideas started flowing, as tends to happen when we Sarah Lawrence people get together. So, here they are, the top three gifts of wisdom from your fellow alumni/ae on this, the day of your ascension into our glorious ranks:

Number one: Take care of your teeth, followed closely by take care of your knees, your hips, and other assorted body parts. You will need them all and they are expensive to replace.

Number two, and this varies somewhat by year of graduation: The common theme is that when you pack up and leave Yonkers today, get together with a half dozen or so of your best friends and rent a one bedroom apartment…and here’s when the chronological part kicks in… rent a one bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village; no, the East Village, then the Lower East Side, Hoboken, Harlem, Williamsburg, Bushwick and hey, it looks like the next place is right back here in Yonkers. The twelve of you can just walk your stuff over.

Third and finally: And this one varies by chosen profession: The hundreds of successful Sarah Lawrence alums in publishing would like you to know that the publishing business isn’t what it used to be. The senior partners in law firms say that law is now way tougher, ditto for those in TV and film, music, finance, advertising, medicine, education, and let me check… everything else. However, and here is some good news, all of us think that you are very likely to succeed… in someone else’s profession, where the going is apparently much easier these days.

All kidding aside, that may be close to the one thing we all would agree upon. You are all probably a lot more ready for this transition than you may think you are right now. You are creative, intelligent, and resourceful people, and we know that because you wouldn’t be sitting in those chairs if you weren't. The extraordinary skills you have developed here will serve you well, in both your personal and professional lives for decades to come, if, and only if, you apply them diligently, relentlessly, doggedly, tenaciously to create your own path… to realize your own vision of a successful future. So, go do that. Help each other. Use all the resources at your disposal, including your newfound alumni/ae network for some advice, guidance, and maybe an introduction or two. And so with that, my fellow alumni/ae, until we meet again.