Remarks by Susan Skerritt K'77 at dedication of Kirkland marker:
Welcome alumnae, faculty, administrators and friends of Kirkland. We are gathered to celebrate an important event - the unveiling of a marker that will serve as a physical embodiment of the values and energy that Kirkland College brought to this Hill during its brief life.
A recent New York Times article described the graduation this Spring of Anne Martindell, an 87-year-old student at Smith College. Ms. Martindell completed her life-long dream of a liberal arts college degree after her parents pulled her out of Smith 70 years ago. Described as "charmingly full of academic enthusiasm," she was the oldest person ever to graduate from Smith. Her story reminded me of what a liberal arts education at a women's college means - the ultimate quest for intellectual challenge and a demonstrated life-long love for learning.
My experience at Kirkland was essential to my own development. Kirkland raised my awareness of myself and my awareness of others, and provided me an appreciation for learning that has only increased since I graduated 25 years ago. Kirkland did what any liberal arts college would be proud of - it opened young women's minds to the possibilities of their lives. Sam, in your inaugural address in April of 1969 you said, "We are a small college dedicated to undergraduate education. While some hasten forward with wreaths to lay upon the tomb of undergraduate liberal arts education, we see and proclaim a new vision in which the undergraduate college can dedicate itself to an investigation and inquiry into the nature and value of American life, the assumptions on which it rests and the means by which we can work to make our society more compatible with our ideals. This shall not happen in graduate and professional education nor shall it happen if the undergraduate schools become simple stepping stones to the next academic rung. There is a yawning vacuum to fill and we rush to enter it."
My fellow alumnae join me in saying "thank you" for rushing in. Four years ago, the Kirkland College Alumnae Directory was published and in it, remarkable and diverse women describe what their Kirkland education meant to them. One woman, in portraying her hard-won medical degree, wrote, "...I knew from my time at Kirkland that I could do whatever I wanted." Another commented, "At Kirkland, I was expected
to evaluate my life decisions. Now, as mother, business-owner, wife, those lessons return full circle." A third reported, "Free expression, stimulating public discourse,
strengthening civil society - my stock in trade." If you read through that directory, you see what Kirkland was all about - providing a thoughtful framework for how we women should survive and flourish and contribute to the world around us.
For those of you who are concerned that nothing of Kirkland remains - I have a very different view. Hamilton has incorporated some of the best parts of Kirkland. Many of the Kirkland faculty members have become prominent members of the Hamilton community. They represent a significant share of the tenured faculty now on the Hill. Further, Hamilton is in the midst of putting a new curriculum in place that reverberates with many of the academic fundamentals of a Kirkland education. Personal responsibility, individually oriented learning, student freedom to make educational choices, and the value of faculty advising - are all clearly evident in the new program.
Before we unveil the marker, let me tell you about its formation. For some time, many of us who feel close to Kirkland have longed for some tangible commemoration of the Kirkland experience. While the buildings of the Kirkland campus are a visual reminder, and educational elements have been incorporated into the Hamilton experience, we wanted something more. We wanted a physical reminder that projects the essence of Kirkland and that announces to visitors what was here.
The Kirkland marker was designed and created by 2 very special artists - John von Bergen and Ava Stein Bromberg. John and Ava, would you please step forward.
John von Bergen, a well-known sculptor, has received awards from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Hand Hollow Fellowship, Yaddo Fellowship, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. His work can be found in collections and museums across the country. John, a graduate of the Hamilton class of 1963, is also responsible for founding Sculpture Space in Utica, an international residency program providing access to a specialized studio facility for professional sculptors.
Ava Stein Bromberg, who graduated from Hamilton just three weeks ago, has worked with John in his studio for the past two years and specifically collaborated on the design and execution of the Kirkland marker. A remarkable young woman, Ava is a master welder, a trade she learned from her grandfather. Her approach to her education epitomizes the ideals of Kirkland. Having completed a double major in Asian Studies and sculpture - including a semester in Japan studying the language and the art - and having been elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Ava now plans to travel around the world to Australia, Thailand, Brazil, and Spain on a Watson fellowship. She will study public art and how it serves and responds to local conditions.
John and Ava have created a beautiful marker for Kirkland. John has described the work as "using the more literal apple symbolism so associated with Kirkland to create an overhead landscape expressing the creative energy and spirit I remember Kirkland bringing to this campus."
So, without further ado, let's unveil the marker................ Sam, Gene Tobin, Susan Valentine, may I ask you to join me up here?