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June 12, 2008

ellen"YOU WILL NEED TO BECOME AGENTS OF CHANGE," said President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to the more than 1,700 recipients of degrees during a sunny Commencement on June 8. "Change that makes the world a better place for all humanity; change that actualizes the universal values of freedom, liberty, justice, equality; change that ensures the unity and progress of the human family." Africa's first elected female president, Johnson-Sirleaf was also one of eight individuals—including Nobel Prize winner Thomas Cech, actress Cicely Tyson, and alumni Ralph Manuel '58 and Richard Hill '41, Tuck '42—to receive an honorary degree.

Speakers also included President James Wright and two of the class's three valedictorians, Nicholas Christman and Jean Ellen Cowgill. Christman, a member of the men's soccer team, spoke about how much he's learned from individuals such as his computer science professor, Prasad Jayanti. "Prasad can tell you that there's beauty in a computer program, and he'll state his case so passionately and so convincingly that you try to create similar beauty in your own work," he said. The third valedictorian was Margaret Fitchet, a resident of nearby Etna, N.H. Fitchet represents the fourth generation in her family to graduate from Dartmouth. The three-way tie for the valedictorians (photo bottom left) was a first for Dartmouth.

For the second year, the Dartmouth Prize for Exceptional Teaching was presented to four K-12 teachers, based on nominations from Dartmouth undergraduates.

According to Class Notes, the most popular majors for the Class of 2008 are Economics, Government, History, Psychology and Brain Sciences, English, Biology, and Engineering Sciences.

Audio from the speeches are available, as are videos of the ceremony and an image gallery.

giftSENIORS MAKE RECORD-BREAKING CLASS GIFT. The Class of 2008 attained the highest participation rate for class giving in recent memory, with 92.5 percent contributing to their Senior Class Gift. Fifteen coed, fraternity, and sorority organizations reached 100 percent participation. The class raised $15,978, also the largest cash gift in recent memory, and was encouraged in its efforts by a challenge from a group of alumni who are members of Dartmouth's Wall Street Forum in New York. At the same time, the Class of 1958 announced on Saturday's Class Day that they raised $3,585,858.58 for the annual fund, the most ever for a class. Ralph Manuel '58, the seventh dean of the college, said two of the class's goals were to surpass the participation rate of the 57's, which they did, and to beat the participation rate of the 08's, which they have until June 30 to accomplish. Over 400 members of the Class of 1958 attended Commencement.

studentsPROFILES OF TWO GRADUATES. "I'm willing to take chances," says Ian Tapu '08, a resident of Hauula, Hawaii who overcame hardship to become the first in his family to graduate from college. (Twenty-five of his family members came to Commencement.) At Dartmouth, Tapu routinely worked three jobs, participated in the hip hop dance troupe SHEBA, joined a Tucker Foundation Project Preservation project, and organized a Dartmouth Easter Egg hunt and Halloween party on Webster Avenue for needy families in the Upper Valley. "My motto is to always push myself, because if I don't, I won't know how much I can offer," says Tapu.

LIZ MANCUSO '08, three years after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, has gone on to set Dartmouth swimming records, including in the 200 IM. After undergoing treatment for the cancer, Mancuso said: "I was petrified—I knew I wasn't in shape to swim, and I didn't feel like I'd had a summer to relax. Then I realized that I had this amazing support network at school, and instead of sitting at home and feeling sorry for myself, I needed to go to my friends, go to my coach, and rely on them to help me get back on track." This year, she was awarded the Kenneth Archibald Prize, the highest honor that Dartmouth awards to an athlete.

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Last Updated: 2/26/09