Cristle Collins Judd: President of the College

Good afternoon.

Good afternoon and welcome to this beautiful campus and this celebratory occasion. This is a special day as we come together for the Graduate Commencement of Sarah Lawrence College. Today we celebrate our graduate and professional programs and the important role they—and the students who are graduating from them—play not only here at Sarah Lawrence but out in the world.

President Cristle Collins JuddWe are a small college, but we have a long history of innovation and a big footprint. This College has understood the centrality of the arts—of writing, theatre, dance, and music—from our beginning. We added a focus on early childhood education shortly after and our first graduate degree programs began almost seventy years ago. Our Human Genetics program, established in 1969, was the very first graduate-level genetic counselor training program in the United States. Our Women’s History program, established in 1972 by Gerda Lerner, was the country’s first graduate degree program in that field. And—you might be sensing a theme here—when our Health Advocacy master’s program started in 1980, it was also the nation’s first.

I’m proud of all the firsts in our history, but I’m especially proud to tell you, graduates, that you are not the first. Today you join a distinguished body of Sarah Lawrence alumni who in their lives and in their work make a difference in the world daily. You are now part of a group that has shared a very special experience, place, and model of education. Some of the people under this tent will remain close friends for the rest of your life, and still others will become valued colleagues—these include not only your classmates, but also the faculty, staff, and even the president of this College! All of us share with you the special privilege that is associated with a Sarah Lawrence education.

I must admit that I am feeling a bit of déjà vu as I stand at this podium, as just a few short months ago I stood here, with many of you, as we celebrated my inauguration as the 11th president of your College. Then, like now, I stood before you, representing our College, sporting Sarah Lawrence green, and wearing this very cool (and very heavy) presidential medallion bearing the seal of the College—a portrait of Sarah Lawrence, along with the year of the College’s founding (1926) and the motto “Wisdom with understanding.”

President Cristle Collins JuddThat motto—“Wisdom with understanding”—points to the essence of a Sarah Lawrence education: discovering which questions to ask and how to follow them relentlessly, digging deep to pursue a possibility, bringing all of one’s creative energies to bear. But it also signals a way of proceeding—with understanding—that reminds us of the necessity for empathy, for generosity and grace when encountering competing views, for an inclusivity, that is itself deeply and openly inclusive.

Graduates: as writers, dancers, theatre makers, performers, activists, scholars, therapists, advocates, teachers, and counselors, this is what you have prepared to do; this is what you will practice in the world.

As you embark on your own future firsts, I congratulate you on your achievement today, and I challenge you to live up to its promise as you go forward.

Remarks as prepared for delivery