Cristle Collins Judd: President of the College

Good morning!

Good morning 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 these programs—and the students who are graduating from them—play not only here at Sarah Lawrence but out in the world.

We are a small college, but we have a long history of innovation and an out-sized influence on the arts, education and health professions. 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 70 years ago. Our Human Genetics program, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, was the first graduate-level genetic counselor training program in the United States, and remains the largest. 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. Dance Movement Therapy began at Sarah Lawrence only seven years ago—the most recent addition in our graduate offerings and among the vanguard of accredited dance movement programs in the United States.

I’m proud of all the firsts in our history, but—as importantly today—I tell you, graduates, that you are not the first. Today you join a distinguished group 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.

Portrait of President Cristle Collins JuddI must admit that I am feeling a bit of déjà vu as I stand at this podium, because, just two short years ago, I arrived here at the same time as many of you. So I know both how long and full and yet what an eyeblink these two years have been. I’m still getting used to what it means to “suit up”, so to speak, 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.”

That motto—“Wisdom with understanding”—is also embossed on the diplomas you’ll receive shortly. And it 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.... Even as—crucially—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