Charlie Hickman addresses a crowd holding a book For everyone, but especially to this final graduating class, I commend you on completing incredible work under such extreme and trying circumstances. Plan is not easy. The tenacity and resiliency I have witnessed from my friends solidified for me what I see as the true heart of Marlboro. While this campus on Potash Hill is a cornerstone of the institution, I believe that our values and culture reach far beyond Windham County. The dining hall, the classrooms, the library, they only hold our histories because we breathed our lives into them. The connections we made here are so strong. And I believe that this web stretches beyond time, space, and circumstance.

One of the first things I heard here, and something that has stuck with me always, is that “Marlboro isn’t for everyone,” and it’s true. The singularity of Marlboro holds multiplicity within. Passion and determination underlie every journey. At the end of the day it is you who put letters on the page, it is you who kept digging at your passion, and it is you who pushed through every obstacle. Your drive to pursue the liberal arts in a moment of history when they are incredibly undervalued underscores what is at the heart of the Marlboro experience.

What is Marlboro? A college? An experience? A place? A time? A personality? It is all those, but under that lies a thread, something ineffable, a reaching-toward but not-quite-there. We problematize and problem solve. We question and try to answer. We transform and traditionalize. We are a stereotype and an anomaly. We are a place and we are an idea. Marlboro has been and always will be a contradiction. It’s true beauty lies in the infinite possibility it holds.

There is no way to regain what we have lost. This final semester is something that we were all owed. We were supposed to be able to mourn, to sit on the lawn in the spring sunshine and congratulate our friends as they finished their oral exams, to witness performances, art installations, and Plan presentations, to hold and support, to savor every single tradition, enjoy the smell of the Vermont spring, and the beautiful singularity of our experiences at Marlboro college. It is my hope that we can all come back together on Potash Hill when it is safe to do so, but I again acknowledge the fact that any future gathering will not repair our loss.

I guess that is it, my requisite piece of benedictory advice. Live into the contradiction. Hold the bad with the good, the mess with the beauty, the obstacles with the possibilities, and the ends with the beginnings.

I feel so lucky to have been able to experience Marlboro. Not just because of the academic freedom, the governance structure, and the beauty of the campus, but primarily because of this community that continues to astound me. Though this chapter is closing, my wish is that we continue to astound each other and the world