Princetonians offer words of wisdom at graduation events across the country

Television producer David E. Kelley ’79 at Colby College
Courtesy Colby College and Gabe Souza

As the graduation season nears its close, we reviewed the remarks from Princeton alumni who spoke at commencement ceremonies at other institutions this spring. Follow the links to read more about these distinguished speakers and honorary-degree recipients.

“Listen to that scream in your belly,” television producer David E. Kelley ’79 told graduates at Colby College. “Do what makes you happy. Most don’t.” Kelley and fellow Princetonian John Rogers ’80, the CEO of Ariel Investments, received honorary degrees. — Morning Sentinel (Waterville, Me.)

“My mother made clear, in both words and deeds, that a good education was the key to success in life,” Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor ’76 told Manhattan College graduates. She added that education helps students “learn to dream big” by exposing them to new possibilities. — Riverdale Press

New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman ’89 at Marist College
Carlo de Jesus/Marist College

At Marist College, New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman ’89 dismissed the notion of a “career ladder”; today’s graduates are more likely to encounter “a career squiggle — a long and winding path that looks like an Escher drawing.” That may sound scary, she said, but it’s also “exciting and full of opportunity.” — Marist College

Teach For All CEO and co-founder Wendy Kopp ’89 set forth ambitious goals for grads at the University of California, Berkeley, urging them to be curious and understanding and to “co-construct a vision of the future that works for all, not for some.” — Berkeley News

Nina Smiley *79, director of mindfulness programming at Mohonk Mountain House, addressed graduates at the nearby State University of New York–New Paltz, encouraging them to “live with compassion, with grace, with insight, with integrity, with love.” — New Paltz News

Physicist, author, and social entrepreneur Alan Lightman ’70 encouraged Skidmore College graduates to pursue contemplation and reflection amidst the “hyperconnectedness” of the modern world. — Skidmore College

Maria Ressa ’86 told grads at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism that reporters “are under attack around the world because we hold the line.” She knows from first-hand experience: In the Philippines, Ressa and her news site, Rappler, are in the midst of multiple legal battles with President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime. — Columbia Journalism School

Genomics pioneer Eric Lander ’78 told Harvard’s Phi Beta Kappa grads, “As scholars, you have a special ability, and therefore, a special duty, to imagine where great things may go so that we can seize opportunities and avoid pitfalls.” — Harvard Gazette

Commercial real estate executive Andy Florance ’86 encouraged Virginia Commonwealth graduates to use adversity “as a source of strength and motivation” in their lives after college. — VCU News

Entertainer and philanthropist Kwanza Jones ’93 told Winston-Salem State University’s Class of 2019 that it is rich in the “resources” of intellect and community. Jones also spoke to graduates at North Carolina’s Bennett College. — Winston-Salem State University, Q City Metro

Retiring Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs *82 received an honorary degree at her final graduation ceremony at the helm of her undergraduate alma mater. — Gettysburg College

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III ’52 received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Yale University. — Yale News

David Remnick ’81, the editor of The New Yorker for more than two decades, received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Harvard University. — Harvard Gazette

Rollins College awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters to longtime trustee Jon W. Fuller *72, who is departing the board after 35 years of service. — Rollins College

This story was updated June 11, 2019.