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Hurray for the Class of 2008!

By Carol Brévart-Demm

As June 1 dawned, there could hardly have existed a more serene, green, and pristine location for a college graduation ceremony than Swarthmore. The storms of the previous day had swept clear the sky under which the many streams criss-crossing the town now burbled garrulously, and trees lining Swarthmore’s narrow streets rustled gently in reply. A couple of elderly residents, coffee cups in hand, sat at an outdoor café, listening to the mix of accents and languages emanating from visiting family members from around the world. Dressed finely for this special occasion, the visitors wended their way toward Fieldhouse Lane and the College’s Scott Outdoor Amphitheater, from which their children would soon step out into the world.

Up on campus, seniors converged on the Dean Bond Rose Garden, where, during their final hours as undergraduates, bending and sniffing, they scrutinized myriad roses, each in search of the perfect blossom to adorn their gowns.

An hour later, all lined up, with roses securely pinned, the Class of 2008 processed from Parrish Walk—their robes swaying to the accompaniment of Associate Professor of Music John Alston’s arrangement of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”—to the amphitheater, where proud families and friends received them with a standing ovation and an honor guard of tulip poplars whispered its approval. The College’s 136th Commencement ceremony was under way.

President Alfred H. Bloom conferred degrees on 364 seniors, including Sandra Schulberg ’71, who, because of an extended illness, had been unable to complete her senior thesis and graduate with her class more than three decades ago. Schulberg, an independent filmmaker, told Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Susan Snyder that she was grateful that Swarthmore had allowed her to “come back and turn in some old homework.”

Bloom awarded honorary degrees to Alberto Mora ’74, former general counsel of the Department of the Navy and currently vice president and legal counsel of the international division of Wal-Mart; Robert Storr ’72, dean of the Yale School of Art and consulting curator of modern and contemporary art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Phyllis Wise ’67, provost and executive vice president at the University of Washington in Seattle, professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, and professor of physiology and biophysics, obstetrics, and gynecology in the School of Medicine.

Adam Dalva was the senior class speaker, chosen by his classmates.

With the 2-hour ceremony over, the sounds of Alston’s arrangement of “Proud Mary—Joy to the World” resounded and the graduates and their joyful families burst out of the amphitheater and into an orgy of hugging, high-fiving, and laughter, as they headed for refreshments and festivity on Parrish Lawn. Meanwhile, down the hill, beneath a heat-induced haze, Swarthmore dozed. The two locals’ coffee break was over, and with the breeze having calmed and the streams running more gently, all that could be heard were the occasional exuberant sounds of 364 brand-new alumni echoing from up the hill.

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