Madison M. Schmalz, of Wassaic, NY, received a B.A. degree in Economics during the 2017 Commencement Ceremonies of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, held on Sunday, May 14. Schmalz, the child of Deborah L. Vanecek and Robert Vanecek; and kenneth L. Schmalz, studied abroad in Rome, Italy while at HWS.

Minh B. K. Thai, of Amenia, NY, received a B.A. degree in Sociology and Economics during the 2017 Commencement Ceremonies of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, held on Sunday, May 14. Thai is the child of Au Thai and Nhung T. Nguyen.

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, former President of the United States of America, 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 homogeneous 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.’”

In his valedictory address, the final of his tenure as HWS president, Gearan 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; founder and president of the Posse Foundation Deborah Bial L.H.D. ’17; Mary Herlihy Gearan L.H.D. ’17; and HWS President Mark D. Gearan L.H.D. ’17.

Hobart and William Smith are small, residential Colleges. Nearly all of the 2,247 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 68 minors. Sixty percent of students create an independent course or major and many courses provide service-learning experiences, internships and job opportunities.