Maureen Pilkington MFA '97:
Member at Large, Alumni Association Board

 

Congratulations class of 2019.

And, on behalf of the Alumni Association Board, welcome, for the first time, to the Sarah Lawrence Alumni Community.

Today’s ceremony on Westlands Lawn near the wisteria that has become the symbol of our academic and creative pursuits here on campus—and the favorite post for Instagram—makes me think of two great minds that address what we all may be feeling on commencement day:

Seneca, the Roman philosopher said, “Every new beginning comes from some OTHER beginnings end.”

Or, as AA Milne channeled through the voice of his famous bear—and one of my favorite philosophers, Winnie the Pooh—said, “I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been.”

But today you are not really walking away.

When I received my MFA at Sarah Lawrence in 1997, I was elated—my thesis was complete, I had been published and I had grown as a writer. But I felt as though I was leaving my most vital connections behind: my community, friends, teachers, my beloved library, the hummus and carrot sandwiches at Bates. Frankly, I was feeling a bit lost and I want to tell you now, first hand, there is no reason to feel lost when you graduate from Sarah Lawrence College.

I didn’t realize then that my education was not ending, it was a new beginning.

Portrait of Maureen PilkingtonI didn’t realize then that my dedication and commitment to Sarah Lawrence would only deepen over the next 20 years.

An alumna of ours you may know, novelist Ann Patchett, said, “Receiving an education is a little bit like a garden snake swallowing a chicken egg: it’s in you but it takes a while to digest.” I’ve had many years to digest my education here and I am feeling fully nourished.

What distinguishes us as students of Sarah Lawrence is not only our creative thinking, but our willingness to cross disciplines—to use our creative thinking to push forward every field, to cultivate thinkers in every generation.

Sarah Lawrence will always be your intellectual and spiritual home—as it has been mine. And, hopefully, you will become active members of the alumni community and we will see you all here over the years at events like this one.

And, finally, please know that you will surely get to where you are going, because of where you have been. Thank you.

Remarks as prepared for delivery