Vanderbilt Graduate Olako Agburu with the A&S school (center) throws her hands in the air as they are recognized by Chancellor Gee.
by Jim Patterson
Vanderbilts Class of 2005 was urged by Chancellor Gordon Gee to reject
politicians, profiteers and pundits intent on polarization and be a
source of loving kindness that helps bring people together.
Continue to defy category, Gee exhorted. Continue to surprise those
who would put you in a neat demographic. Be insistently curious.
Gee delivered the commencement address on May 13 to Vanderbilts 130th
class of graduates. A total of 2,468 graduates attended, 1,423
undergraduates and 1,045 recipients of graduate or professional
degrees. Gee addressed the entire class on Alumni Lawn before the
graduate and professional degree students went on to receive their
degrees in separate ceremonies.
Noting that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred shortly
after the 130th class started its freshman year, Gee said that the
hateful and divisive culture that followed was exceedingly strange.
He offered as a solution the Buddhist concept of metta, an attitude of
loving kindness toward the other side in a conflict.
You are the ones whom it falls upon to reknit our shared culture, to
reweave it back into whole cloth, Gee said. It becomes your task to
set things right. And the way which you find to do that will be the
way you show the merit of your Vanderbilt diploma.
Gee singled out some students for good-natured chiding, including
a campus publication editor who reported his death as a joke and a
student who dressed as Gee -- in a rat costume during a protest.
I am so grateful to have had him as an annoyance, and the fact that
hes out of here, Gee said of David Barzelay, who reported Gees
demise in a satirical story in Slant magazine. So I wish him well
The Chancellor praised two campus groups the anti-abortion Vanderbilt
Students for Life and the pro-choice Vanderbilt Feminists who worked
together to educate students on reproductive options.
Their accomplishment was a practice of metta, Gee said. They came
together to support women in need, and their coming together for the
Pregnancy Resource Forum was an absolutely shining moment in the
Laura Folse of Vanderbilt Students for Life and Katharyn Christian of
Vanderbilt Feminists are part of the 130th Vanderbilt class.
As one who holds a Vanderbilt degree, you are not allowed to burn with
hatred that goes nowhere, and that does no one any good, but only deals
severance and pain, Gee said. Ladies and gentleman, the good news is
you do not even have to adapt or change. All you have to do is
continue as you have done here, with a little extra emphasis because,
in an ideologically divided culture, the spirit can get ragged more
rapidly than it can at a university.
To purchase commencement photos, visit www.vanderbilt.edu/vufinder/WebProofs/VU05/.