During the last four years, Wesleyan University
students have generated responses to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the war in
Iraq, the genocidal crisis in Darfur, the Tsunami of 2004 and several other
events. In his commencement address on Wesleyan’s campus on Sunday, May 22,
Wesleyan President Douglas J. Bennet `59 urged the 718 undergraduates from
the Class of 2005 to continue their good work.
“My commencement wish for each of you is that you never lose your instinct
for challenging the society around you,” Bennet said.
Bennet exhorted the students to take special interest in those around them
who struggle economically
“In our parents’ time, we had a patchwork of social legislation, tax policy,
public programs, including some foreign aid, to provide help and hope so
that families could move up,” Bennet said. “There does not seem to be a
consensus in the public today about what we can or should do for the
have-nots…I am counting on you, everyone here, not to ignore this issue.
There is a moral imperative to address it so that the outcomes are not
decided by default.”
The commencement speaker, Amy Gutmann, president of the University of
Pennsylvania, echoed Bennet’s remarks but also asked students to adapt an
attitude of mutual respect.
“Mutual respect is not about walking on eggshells,” Gutmann said. “It is not
about playing down differences. Rather, it is about giving serious
consideration to our differences and disagreements and working through them.
It is about pursuing common goals in a constructive spirit of engagement,
even when many differences remain.”
Gutmann added that mutual respect is “the life blood of democracy” and yet
has become more scarce in a society that seems increasingly polarized and
“Without mutual respect, democracy is dead, and so are your prospects for
living in a just and peaceful world,” she said.
Students also heard from New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick `75,
P `07, who received an honorary doctorate from the university during the
ceremony. Belichick urged the graduates to give heed to their passions
rather than taking the easy way out.
“Follow your dreams,” he said. “Resist the opportunity to take the job that
might pay a little more in the short term but offer nothing in the long
term. Pursue the thing you really love. Do that, and the rest will come.”
Along with Belichick and Gutmann, Pulitzer prize winning author Edward P.
Jones and William Barber, the Andrews Professor of Economics Emeritus at
Wesleyan also received honorary degrees.
Wesleyan bestowed the Baldwin Medal, the highest alumni honor presented by
the University, to John F. Woodhouse, `53, P `79, a Wesleyan alumnus, former
president and CEO of Sysco Corporation, and trustee emeritus, chairman and
leader of the first-ever Wesleyan Capital Campaign that raised $287 million.
The Baldwin Medal pays tribute to the late Judge Raymond E. Baldwin of
Wesleyan's Class of 1916. Baldwin was the only man to have held the offices
of Connecticut governor, U.S. senator, and chief justice of the Connecticut
Along with the 718 bachelor of arts degrees, Wesleyan also awarded 14 Ph.D.
degrees, 40 master of arts degrees in individual fields, 65 master of arts
in liberal studies degrees and two advanced certifications. Wesleyan also
honored and recognized its alumni from the World War II era during the
For the full text of the
Full text of Amy Gutmann's speech
Full text of Doug Bennet's speech
Belichick receives honorary degree at Wesleyan
To see photos of the weekend visit: