GENEVA, NY - July 14, 2017 - Garth R. Burke, of Plainfield, NJ, received a B.A. degree in Architectural Studies during the 2017 Commencement Ceremonies of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, held on Sunday, May 14. Burke, the child of Carla B. Burke and Amal K. Burke, studied abroad in Rome, Italy while at HWS.

Commencement 2017 marked the 192nd graduation for Hobart and the 106th for William Smith. The Commencement for the Classes of 2017 drew a record audience of more than 6,500 people, and 526 Hobart and William Smith undergraduates and eight master’s candidates were awarded degrees.

William Jefferson Clinton L.H.D. ’17, the founder of the Clinton Foundation and 42nd president of the United States, delivered the 2017 Commencement Address. “As long as we believe our common humanity is most important, as long as we understand that diverse groups make better decisions than homogenous ones or lone geniuses, as long as we realize the great thing about life is not final victories and the great tragedy is not final defeats—there aren’t any final victories or final defeats…but a life of permanent possibility,” Clinton said. After exploring the merits of inclusion and of embracing difference as a point of unity rather than division, Clinton concluded with a charge to the audience to “every single day…work to expand the definition of ‘us’ and shrink the definition of ‘them.’” 

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In his valedictory address, HWS President Mark D. Gearan L.H.D. ’17 called upon the Classes of 2017 “to fulfill the mission of Hobart and William Smith Colleges: lead a life of consequence. How and where you do that, of course, is a highly individualized conclusion. But all of you have had the experiences here – and exposure to the values of Hobart and William Smith that we hope will carry with you: a commitment to service, citizenship and global understanding; an appreciation of the importance of difference and inclusion; a responsibility for the stewardship of the environment and a lifelong passion for learning. All of those values will assist you on your journey.”

This year, the Colleges conferred four honorary degrees to individuals who have enhanced local, national and global communities through their enduring spirit of service. They included: Clinton; Gearan; Deborah Bial L.H.D. ’17, founder and president of the Posse Foundation; and Mary Herlihy Gearan L.H.D. ’17, community activist and member of the Board of Directors of Happiness House-Finger Lakes Cerebral Palsy Association.

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Hobart and William Smith are small, residential Colleges. Nearly all of the 2,262 students live on campus and many live in learning communities and theme houses that focus on community-building. With a 10:1 student to faculty ratio, students develop rewarding one-on-one partnerships with faculty mentors, often resulting in published papers or presentations at national conferences. HWS offers 45 majors and 67 minors, and 60 percent of students study abroad.