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‘The next wave of change’: Hampshire College’s 295 graduates look ahead 

  • Alea Alexis, left, Nadia Issa and Fynta Sidime Sherif applaud remarks by Cheyenne Palacio-McCarthy in her student address at the Hampshire College commencement ceremony in Amherst on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire College interim president Ken Rosenthal, left, interim chair of the board of trustees Luis Hernandez and keynote speaker Ericka Hart lead the processional out of Franklin Patterson Hall for the college's commencement in Amherst on Saturday, May 18, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • With a bang of the gavel, Hampshire College laboratory manager and greenhouse supervisor Chelvanaya Gabriel calls the college's commencement in order just after 11 a.m. Saturday, May 18, 2019, in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Luis Hernandez, interim chair of the Hampshire College board of trustees, welcomes the 295 graduates and nearly 2000 others to the college's commencement exercises under the current and previous 10 years of banners on Saturday, May 18, 2019, in Amherst. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Charles Longsworth, who was Hampshire College's first employee and also its second president, acknowledges the applause after he was recognized by interim president Ken Rosenthal during commencement exercises in Amherst on Saturday, May 18, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire College graduates, from left, Avalon Mercado, Aria Linz and Leah Mabey join their classmates in a short embrace. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire College interim president Ken Rosenthal gives the celebratory address to the class of 295 graduates during commencement exercises in Amherst on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire College commencement student speaker Cheyenne Palacio-McCarthy asked her classmates to join her in taking in a big relaxing breath as she began her address to the class of 2019. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire College commencement student speaker Cheyenne Palacio-McCarthy exhales after she asked her classmates to join her in taking in a big relaxing breath at the beginning of her address to the class of 2019 in Amherst on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Alea Alexis, left, Nadia Issa and Fynta Sidime Sherif applaud remarks by Cheyenne Palacio-McCarthy in her student address at Hampshire College commencement in Amherst on Saturday, May 18, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Activist and sexuality educator Ericka Hart gives the keynote address at Hampshire College commencement in Amherst on Saturday, May 18, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire College faculty, alumni and guests acknowledge the welcoming applause before taking their seats on the dais for the college's commencement exercises in Amherst on Saturday, May 18, 2019. From left are Jennifer Hamilton, Faith Glenn, Ericka Hart, Luis Hernandez, Ken Rosenthal, Eva Rueschmann and Tasheena Stewart. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hampshire College graduates, Leah Mabey (far left, with cap), Aria Linz, Avalon Mercado, Isabel Masteika and Savvy Cornett pause in the processional to commencement exercises in Amherst on Saturday, May 18, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING



Staff Writer 
Friday, May 24, 2019

AMHERST — Cheyenne Palacio-McCarthy said her academic journey at Hampshire College presented challenges and risks that required hard work and fortitude in order to reach where she stood Saturday.

Speaking in front of nearly 2,000 people under a tent on the college campus, Palacio-McCarthy delivered the student address at the commencement ceremony for the college’s 295 graduates.

“Wow, we finally get to breathe again,” Palacio-McCarthy said, drawing laughter from the audience. She said the college’s promises of a self-driven education, mentorship to help refine her ideas and an enlivened student body drew her to Hampshire in the first place.

Hampshire’s motto, “to know is not enough,” inspired Palacio-McCarthy throughout her years at the college. “It’s where both knowledge and action live,” she said. “To know knowledge beyond the stationary and to actively seek the change.”

Studying epistemology produced a shift in Palacio-McCarthy’s understanding of how she examines what she thinks she knows, she said. Those lessons learned, and all the challenges Hampshire students have faced, have prepared students to fight for a more just future, she said.

“Hampshire College does what many institutions fail to do,” she said. “Hampshire stands in the gap of dark truth and critical hope, fostering changemakers such as yourselves … We will be the ones deciding the next wave of change in the coming generations.”

The ceremony’s keynote speaker, Ericka Hart, an activist, sexuality educator and “cancer warrior,” said that after graduating from the University of Miami, she kept coming back to the question, “What the hell am I going to do next?”

Faced with that question, which she said many graduates are likely to ask themselves, Hart cautioned students to be wary of “capitalist-induced anxiety.”

“If you are sitting here today frustrated by how much labor — physical, emotional, spiritual — you have had to give to an institution you have paid to attend, I affirm that frustration, and that does not discount everything you have done,” Hart told the crowd.

She advised students not to measure their worth by their production.

“You might not work in your field right away, you might not work in your field at all, and that’s OK,” she said. “Your calling may call you.”

She added, “If you are not working to rid yourself and your field of white supremacist patriarchy, what was this all for?”

Interim chair of the board of trustees, Luis A. Hernandez, class of 1970, and Ken Rosenthal, interim president of the college, also delivered remarks at the ceremony. Jonathan Wright, class of 1970, gave the alumni address.

“The need to downsize the college for a time means the departure of some dear friends and colleagues,” Rosenthal said. The college announced in late April that 24 staff members will be laid off by June 30 and that many faculty members will not return to Hampshire next year.

“And still I believe in Hampshire College,” he said.

A network of alumni and friends of the college have raised more than $5.5 million as part of a capital campaign aimed at helping keep Hampshire financially afloat. Hampshire is aiming to raise $15 million to $20 million over the next year, and as much as $100 million over the next five to six years.

Over the weekend alone, Hampshire raised more than $1 million as part of a commencement fundraising effort.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com.