College Celebrates 128th Commencement with Speaker Ophelia Dahl
June 1, 2006
Mass. – Global
public health activist Ophelia Dahl addressed the 544 graduating
seniors, their families and friends at Wellesley College’s
128th Commencement Exercises on Thursday, June 1, at 10:30 am
on Severance Green on the Wellesley, Mass., campus.
movingly about the challenges today’s seniors
have already witnessed, from Darfur to Abu Ghraib to Hurricane
Katrina to the Iraq War.
“How might these turbulent times that we live in shape our
future?” Dahl asked. “Of course there have been centuries
of troubles, wars, violence and terrible battles. You’ll
see behind you generations of brave people who waded through a
mire of injustice and violence to shape a better future and chose
to fight passionately for causes they believe in.”
Dahl is a founding trustee and the executive director of Partners
In Health (PIH), an international organization that brings the
benefits of modern medical science to some of the most impoverished
areas of the world. Partners In Health and its co-founder Dr.
Paul Farmer were the subject of the bestseller, Mountains
by Tracy Kidder.
A member of
the Class of 1994 who was part of Wellesley's Davis Degree Program
non-traditional-aged students, she arrived at
Wellesley in 1989 after serving as a public health worker in Haiti
for nearly seven years. In Haiti she met Farmer, and they worked
together to bring health care to the destitute sick, beginning
with a few villages in Haiti’s Central Plateau. “[We
started] without much of a plan, but utilizing the talent, goodwill
and generosity of other people, working as a team,” Dahl
said of those early efforts. “…All the time, we tried
to draw connections between the near and the distant. The near
of Boston teaching hospitals with the distant, rural, dusty clinic
in Haiti. The near of people’s hunger with the distant World
Expanding on the effectiveness of the community-based model in
Haiti, Dahl has helped to establish major PIH projects in poor
communities around the world, including Peru, Mexico, Guatemala,
Russia, Boston and, most recently, Rwanda. Dahl also serves on
the board of her family’s foundation to honor the work of
her father, the late writer Roald Dahl, and is engaged in philanthropic
works in the United States and England.
This year’s student Commencement speaker, senior Sophie
Kim of Alameda, Calif., continues a tradition that began with the
first student Commencement speaker, New York Senator Hillary Rodham
Clinton, a member of the Wellesley Class of 1969. Kim emphasized
the continued importance of women’s colleges in today’s
“Gender equality is more of a reality today than it was
even in our parents’ generation,
but there is still more progress to be made, particularly in promoting the advancement
and visibility of women in all sectors of society,” she said.
A political science major, Kim has served as chair of the Committee
for Political and Legislative Action, which presents issues of
local, national and international importance to the student body
in a nonpartisan manner, and has been a member of the 2005-2006
College Government Cabinet. She has been active in the Political
Science Majors Council and as a tutor for the department, and has
served as a research assistant for her major adviser. She is also
active in the Phi Sigma Lecture Society. Last summer, she participated
in the Wellesley in Washington internship program in Washington,
D.C., where she interned for a federal judge on the U.S. District
Court for the District of Columbia. She will prepare for law school
Wellesley College President Diana Chapman Walsh delivered her traditional “Charge
to the Class,” noting that this year’s graduates have
already shown a commitment to “the values of cooperation,
collaboration and community” that serve them well in what
she called “the heat of the moment” issues such as
presidential elections, war in Iraq, tsunamis and hurricanes.
“In these and in many other instances, including moments
of tragedy, you staked out the place where this historic college
can meet the claims of a troubled world,” Walsh said. “Our
deep gladness—as you have lived it in your time here—is
educating women who can bring balance and perspective to a world
dangerously out of kilter.”
including the full text of the speeches given at the 2006 Commencement
ceremony, go to www.wellesley.edu/PublicAffairs/Commencement/index.html.
Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an
excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference
in the world. Since 1971, the College has welcomed non-traditional-college-aged
women to pursue their bachelor's degrees. There are currently 53
women enrolled in Wellesley's Elisabeth Kaiser Davis Degree Program.
Wellesley's 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate
students from all 50 states and 68 countries.