By Chris Giblin
On Dec. 1, the college announced through an Intercom message that it would get “a notable alumnus or Ithaca College faculty member who has a deep connection to the institution” to speak at Commencement on May 23. The note went on to mention how “the alumni/faculty speaker will replace the celebrity speaker which has been a part of Commencement in the past.”
Admittedly, the past few celebrity Commencement speakers, while being undoubtedly accomplished, did not necessarily have the name recognition to garner the term “celebrity.” Last year, it was Jim Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13 who famously reported to mission control, “Houston, we have a problem.” For the Class of 2008, it was NFL Hall of Famer and Minnesota Supreme Court Judge Alan Page. For an example of a speaker with celebrity status, one probably has to go back to the Class of 2005, which featured Ben Stein (and yes, for the sake of the argument, we’ll consider him a celebrity).
Regardless, the long-running celebrity speaker program was not just about getting a famous, well-known person to provide a memorable sendoff for IC seniors. It was also about getting a citizen of the world to share their experiences, failures and eventual successes with a student body that was moving on into an uncertain work environment.
It is perfectly logical to think an alumnus or faculty member of IC will bring similar words of experience and encouragement for students, but it also shrinks the world of the IC graduate when it should be wide open. Commencement is the day IC students must leave the college behind and look to find their niche in the real world. They’re done; they don’t need to have any more IC success stories thrust in their face, telling them how great the institution is. That’s propaganda for prospective high school students, and it’s not necessary at Commencement.
If seniors can’t have a true “celebrity” speak at their graduation, they should at least get someone who can talk about their extraordinary accomplishments or their dedication to a noble cause. Graduation is when students move on into a world that, in general, doesn’t care much about which school we went to. When the school goes to pick a Commencement speaker, it shouldn’t care what school those people went to either.
Chris Giblin is a junior TV-R major who’s trying to get Michael Ian Black to come for Commencement. Join the Facebook group. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.