Hearst Magazines' Cathie Black Urges Class To Be Agents of Change

Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines, told Hamilton's Class of 2009 to be agents of change at its commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 24. She also discussed changes underway in the media industry and the value of having first-rate communication skills. 

Black gave the address at Hamilton's 197th commencement, in the Margaret Bundy Scott Field House, where 472 students received bachelor's degrees. She was awarded an honorary degree, along with John Adams, co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Rebecca Chopp, president of Colgate University, and Stuart Scott, a 1961 graduate of Hamilton and former chairman of its Board of Trustees. 

In her address, Black talked about the ways that technology has transformed how we communicate. "Past generations marveled that they could travel by land, sea and air. Your world connects by Facebook, Twitter, text and video." 

Because of these changes in technology, Black said it has never been more important to communicate with "clarity, creativity and care." She noted, "You are very lucky that this college puts the highest value on communication. There is no job in the world today – or role to be played – that does not demand first-rate communications skills." Black also told graduates they are lucky to have received a liberal arts education "because it prepares you to take life on … on a liberal arts campus, inquiry is fearless." 

Addressing job prospects, Black said despite problems in the global economy, there are paths available for new graduates. "Maybe it's the Peace Corps. Maybe it's community service…Any job is an experience that will help you more clearly define what you really like doing." She advised graduates "to think not so much about doing the expected…and think about being agents of change." 

Black said that 10 years ago she would not have envisioned the day "when I'd spend 30 percent or more of my time as a publishing executive on digital media…or that newspapers would face such a challenged future." 

In concluding her talk, Black said that in order to be agents of change, graduates must realize the importance of being "people who do well and do good." Black advised, "Don't wait to give back, give first."

In his remarks, class valedictorian Keith M. Gross (Emerson, N.J) urged his classmates to celebrate more than their graduation from Hamilton. "College and life in general have been filled with many small successes," he said. "These are the ones we often overlook and never write about in speeches. They come and go almost daily, and afterwards you never hear a 'congratulations.' When is the last time you took an extra second to appreciate getting an A on very minor assignment?," Gross asked. "Or patted yourself on the back because you ran one mile more than you usually do?" 

"It is these little successes, however, that shape us as individuals in between the larger, more celebrated successes," Gross said.
Ashley Stagner, (Blossvale, NY), recipient of the James Soper Merrill Prize, also addressed the audience. In her remarks he noted that "what makes Hamilton Hamilton are the students and faculty. Here we have a wide range of students and faculty all enthused about education and who inspire one another to go above and beyond the norm. I love being part of such a strong community that genuinely cares about one another, both academically and emotionally." 

The Soper Merrill Prize is awarded to the member of the class "who, in character and influence, has typified the highest ideals of the College." The winner is selected by the faculty. 

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