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Advice for Graduates: Stay United, 'Enjoy Your Wisdom'

The ESF Class of 2016 got some advice during Commencement May 14 from their peers, the college's academic and alumni leaders, and a magazine editor who received an honorary degree.

ESF President Quentin Wheeler turned a quote from Winston Churchill on its end when he told the graduates who were gathered at SRC Arena: "The best argument for a democracy is a five-minute conversation with any of our graduates."

"Finals are in the rearview mirror. So take time to dream and to think of what could be. Then get busy," he said.

"After today, the curtain rises," Wheeler said as he concluded his address. "Don't listen to the critics. Instead, listen to your inner voice. Do what you know is right. The world is counting on you."

Class speakers Rhea Joseph and Fareya Zubair shared a speech, urging their classmates to stay united and value understanding as they face the future.

"Outside our experience at ESF, we will still have to find our way," Joseph said. "The power of being united, acting together, for all that we believe is more powerful than any challenge we may face."

She added: "If we are more understanding of others, we will be able to change the world."

"Today we challenge you," Zubair told her classmates. "We challenge you to improve our world, we challenge you to step outside your comfort zone, we challenge you to unite."

Together, the student speakers led their class in reciting a quote from novelist and environmental activist Wendell Berry: "Nobody can discover the way for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone."

An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was bestowed upon Howard Emerson "Chip" Blake Jr., editor-in-chief of Orion Magazine, who spoke of the importance of art and storytelling in helping people understand the world.

"Who will be the story teller of the places and things you will try to protect?" he asked. "Maybe it's you."

Blake said art inspires the imagination, increases empathy and serves as an antidote to materialism.

"Do well with the skills you gathered here at ESF," he told the graduates. "Enjoy your wisdom. Go forward with hope."

He shared one final thought: "Don't forget to run through a pasture screaming once in a while. You are doing the most important work there is. I invite you to enjoy a moment of pride in the career you have chosen."

Also during Commencement, the chair of the Class of 2016, Daniel Tighe, presented the class gift: two eco-friendly hydration stations for Moon Library to help reduce the use of plastic water bottles.

Degrees were conferred at the ESF Commencement. On May 15, the graduates joined their peers at Syracuse University for a joint ceremony at the Carrier Dome.