Hamilton College's 208th Commencement was traditional in the sense that the college's valedictorian was announced, the Bagpipes of the Mohawk Valley Frasers offered a prelude and postlude to the ceremony. and seniors from the College Choir sang Carissima, Hamilton’s alma mater. The one big obvious difference of course, was that no-one could attend in-person and the event was live streamed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For over two centuries, the College has flourished and grown, finding its way past wars and conflicts, depressions and recessions, epidemics and pandemics. In every generation there have been defining moments," said President David Wippman. “We may not get to choose our defining moments, but we do get to choose how we respond.  Adversity brings with it disappointment, anxiety, and loss. But it also brings opportunity, to learn, to grow, and to find one’s own inner strength," he added.

Ramisa Tasnim, who was chosen by seniors to address their class, looked back to the Class of 2020’s first-year orientation and said she initially doubted how “five days together would cause such a difference to my college career.” However, she continued, “That is the beauty of uncertainty. And that is the result of a willingness to try new and unfamiliar things. And, most importantly, that is what Hamilton provided us. A chance. An opportunity. An experience.

“Some of us have traveled across the world, some of us across the country. Some of us only live an hour away. Some of us come from large families. Some of us were raised in a single-parent household. For all of us, coming to college in Clinton, N.Y., meant not just receiving a stellar education but also finding connections,” Tasnim said.

Dean of Faculty Suzanne Keen announced the Class of 2020 valedictorian Caroline Sullivan, a biochemistry major from Hopkinton, Mass., and salutatorian Sarah Salimi, a sociology major from Hartsdale, N.Y.

Also receiving recognition was Kena Gilmour, a government major from New Paltz, who received the James Soper Merrill Prize. It is awarded to that member of the graduating class “who, in character and influence, has best typified the highest ideals of the College.”

Gilmour was called “one of the most outstanding people I have met in my life” by men’s basketball coach Adam Stockwell, one of Gilmour’s many nominators. “In my nearly 25 years of coaching at the college level, I have never met a student-athlete who epitomizes the Division III scholar-athlete vision better than Kena Gilmour,” Stockwell wrote.

In addition to success on the basketball court, Gilmour was a library circulation assistant, a researcher for the Africana Studies Department, and a resident advisor. He was president of the Brothers Organization, chaired the governing board of Men of Hamilton Against Sexual Assault, helped develop and run Fun Fridays for Clinton Elementary children, and was a member of the Queer Student Union and the Black and Latinx Student Union.

Among his many honors in basketball, Gilmour was named NESCAC Player of the Year, first-team All-American, and this year received the prestigious Jostens Trophy, a national award that recognizes basketball ability, academic prowess, and community service.


“The world has changed, in ways we never imagined,” Wippman said. “Now more than ever the world needs your strength, your determination, your talent, and your resiliency – to solve the problems we face, to lead the change we require, and to navigate an uncertain future with grit and determination — characteristics that I believe will come to define your class and your generation."

Math professors sing for graduates: https://youtu.be/pN6tLNYVTKA

Undergraduate musicians play Pomp & Circumstance for graduates:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMz4oA1JOs4&feature=youtu.be



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