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Colby-Sawyer Graduates 219

  • Emma Clark, of Meriden, N.H., left, laughs as her friend and fellow English major Pradipti Bhatta, of Nepal, gives her head a playful squeeze as she fixes Clark's cap before during the Colby-Sawyer College commencement ceremonies in New London, N.H., on May 10, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Emma Clark, of Meriden, N.H., left, laughs as her friend and fellow English major Pradipti Bhatta, of Nepal, gives her head a playful squeeze as she fixes Clark's cap before during the Colby-Sawyer College commencement ceremonies in New London, N.H., on May 10, 2014.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Thomas C. Galligan, president of Colby-Sawyer College, dances with Jayme Severance, a creative writing major, before handing Severance his diploma during Colby-Sawyer's commencement ceremony in New London, N.H., on May 10, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Thomas C. Galligan, president of Colby-Sawyer College, dances with Jayme Severance, a creative writing major, before handing Severance his diploma during Colby-Sawyer's commencement ceremony in New London, N.H., on May 10, 2014.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Colby-Sawyer College students line up by program in the Dan and Kathleen Hogan Sports Center before commencement ceremonies in New London, N.H., on May 10, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Colby-Sawyer College students line up by program in the Dan and Kathleen Hogan Sports Center before commencement ceremonies in New London, N.H., on May 10, 2014.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Emma Clark, of Meriden, N.H., left, laughs as her friend and fellow English major Pradipti Bhatta, of Nepal, gives her head a playful squeeze as she fixes Clark's cap before during the Colby-Sawyer College commencement ceremonies in New London, N.H., on May 10, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Thomas C. Galligan, president of Colby-Sawyer College, dances with Jayme Severance, a creative writing major, before handing Severance his diploma during Colby-Sawyer's commencement ceremony in New London, N.H., on May 10, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Colby-Sawyer College students line up by program in the Dan and Kathleen Hogan Sports Center before commencement ceremonies in New London, N.H., on May 10, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

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New London — There are frequent stories this time of year about college and high school graduates overcoming any number of obstacles, some tougher than others, to earn their degree.

Jayme Severance, of Hookset, N.H., who received his Bachelor of Arts in creative writing at Saturday’s Colby-Sawyer College commencement, overcame more than most.

Critically injured in the fall of his senior year of high school in a car accident that left him in a coma with traumatic brain injury, Severance had a long road to rehabilitation during which he discovered a passion for writing and a desire to attend college.

On Saturday, he smiled broadly and did a little dance across the stage when he accepted his diploma.

“Actually, there are two Jaymes,” he said after graduation exercises. “One before the accident, who never thought of going to college, and one after. I was given encouragement from a dear friend and help from a lot of people. They encouraged me.”

His mother Sheila said her son has shown a lot of determination to reached Saturday’s achievement. “He has been through a lot,” she said tearfully. “I encouraged him every day.” Severance said his next step is some “practical teaching” experience then a master’s in education to allow him to become a secondary education teacher.

Saturday’s graduation, under a big tent on the front lawn of the campus, began with a light rain and overcast skies but finished with the 219 graduates walking out into warm sunshine where they were greeted by friends and families.

The ceremony was punctuated by frequent applause and loud cheers for graduates and award recipients, including Lindsey St. Louis, of New London, who received the David Winton Baccalaureate Award for the highest rank in scholarship.

Graduates entered the tent to Fanfare by the New England Brass Quintet and after the national anthem, sung by graduate Bailey Allard, Colby-Sawyer President Thomas Galligan welcomed the class.

“This is your day,” said Galligan. “It is a day to celebrate. It is a day for all of us to congratulate you on your accomplishments. And it is a day for you to bask in your glory.”

He highlighted the commitment of the school’s foreign students, saying it takes courage to leave home and a familiar culture for a distant land, perhaps not returning to see family for four years.

One of those students is Mabel Xaba, of Zimbabwe, whose mother, Ruth, had not seen her daughter since she left for college but was able to come to the graduation, Galligan said.

Galligan’s remarks built toward a theme of individuality of the mind, something he urged the graduates to carry with them in the years ahead.

He said graduation is a time to celebrate, but also a time to reflect and take measure of whether “you know yourselves better today than you did when you arrived here.”

Referring to the final book by the late legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin, Justice for Hedgehogs, Galligan said, “each of us has an ethical obligation to ourselves to make something of our lives.”

But that obligation is different for each and requires hard work. “Don’t compromise to someone else’s idea of what to make of your lives,” he said. “It is up to each of us to define what making something of our lives means.”

The commencement address was given by Harvey Pine, assistant professor of environmental sciences. Pine recalled his experience in 1998 as a 21-year-old with the Peace Corps in Zambia, where he learned about sharing — something he urged the graduates to do in their lives as they ponder the post-graduate question, “now what?”

“In a world that often seems obsessed with globalizing and shrinking the world, remember the power of community and the need to share,” Pine said.

“I know you can do this,” he said. “I have experienced and learned a lot from what you have all shared during your time here. Share your successes so we can continue to learn from you.”

The senior address was given by Nicholas Ciarlante, a business administration and political studies major. He was introduced by David Sauerwein, vice president for student development and dean of students, who suggested that Ciarlante could be the first Colby-Sawyer graduate to occupy the White House because of the breadth of his accomplishments, engaging personality, interest in politics and a desire to run for office.

Ciarlante highlighted the academic, community service and athletic accomplishments of several students and the many learning experiences inside and outside the classroom they have all had since arriving four years ago.

“This day, May 10, 2014, seemed an impossibly long way away when we sat here for convocation, but here we are, four years later, as the bells atop Colgate Hall toll one last time for our class,” Ciarlante said.

“After the last bag is packed and the last car drives away from campus this afternoon, remember this question that I pose to you now. It’s one we’ve all been thinking about, I know: ‘What’s next?’ Just as we did four years ago, we are about to begin a new chapter of our lives. We were guided, supported and pushed to excel, and now I challenge you to do the same. Push yourself and try to inspire others.”

In his closing comments, Galligan told graduates “we wish you well and you will always be a part of the Colby-Sawyer community.” And then, as he does each year, he asked the class to applaud loudly for the friends, family, teachers and others who helped them realize this day.

CLASS OF 2014

Here are the Upper Valley members of the Colby-Sawyer College Class of 2014, as provided by the school: Jennifer Ann Abjornson, Lebanon; Briana Lynn Alexander, Fairlee; Taryn Leigh Bocko, Sunapee; Karen Natasha Campbell, Lebanon; Emma Lee Clark, Meriden; Amelia Francesca Clause, West Lebanon; Melanie Briana Corley, New London; Alexander Jacob Drost, West Windsor; Fan Feng, Wilmot; Sarah Marie Fischer, Sunapee; Cong Geng, New London; Malia Alynn King, Newport; Emma Frances Maki, Claremont; Arianna M. Marks, Grantham; Sameh Khalil Matar, New London; Molly Catherine Mattern, Tunbridge; Jill C. McKenney, White River Junction; Tori Ann Meder, Piermont; Ian Thomas Moore, Enfield; Ethan Robert O’Connell, Enfield.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.

CORRECTIONS

There were 219 graduates at the Colby-Sawyer College 2014 commencement. Jayme Severance received a bachelor's degree in creative writing. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the number of graduates and Severance's degree.