Looking out at a sea of graduates from the Class of 2014, Gloria Borger ’74, P’10 on Sunday recalled how much things had changed since she graduated 40 years ago as a member of the first coeducational class at Colgate.
Borger was one of 132 “coeds” in that historic class, and she shared personal memories and funny anecdotes with the latest graduates during her keynote address at Colgate’s 193rd commencement. (Watch the speech.)
“Colgate had been the ultimate boys club for 151 years. Then, after three years of debate, the board finally decided to let us in,” she recalled. “The student paper was then [called] just the Maroon, and the headline proclaimed ‘Girls’ credentials boost overall academic quality.’ Well, some things never change.
“Colgate had made an immense effort to welcome us girls. … The signs were everywhere in Andrews, that’s the dorm where most of us were quarantined. We were all given ironing boards, and full-length mirrors — and, this is my favorite touch, plastic flowers had been carefully placed in the bathroom urinals.
“How thoughtful the school was back then — although, to this day, as my family can attest, I still have no idea what the ironing boards were for,” Borger said to laughter and applause.
Borger, the chief political analyst for CNN, ultimately spoke about the hugely successful transformation the university made over the years in becoming “home to a group of incredibly gifted and increasingly diverse students.
“Over my four years here, something important happened: we women at Colgate managed to weave ourselves into the fabric of the school — in extracurricular activities, academically, athletically, and socially.
“It wasn’t always an easy transition. And sometimes we got some outside help — as did other colleges — from Title IX, which gradually opened a larger path to equity. But there is no disputing how far we have come here.
- Watch Gloria Borger’s keynote speech
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- Photos from commencement weekend
- Commencement via social media (Storify)
- Complete keynote address by Gloria Borger ’74, P 10
- President Jeffrey Herbst’s remarks to “his” class
- Baccalaureate speech by Father George Coyne
“Coeducation may have started out as an arranged marriage, but it blossomed into so much more. And we’re all the better off for it.”
There were 749 graduates on Sunday, and more than half of those earned university honors. One of the diplomas was awarded to Luke Stalker, a member of the class who died March 10, 2013. Audience members stood and cheered loudly as Luke’s father, Peter, strode to the stage to accept the diploma for his son from President Jeffrey Herbst.
In his speech to the graduates, Herbst mentioned the special bond he had with the class.
“I have always thought of you, the Class of 2014, as my class. We entered Colgate together in the fall of 2010. Now you will leave, but it has been a special pleasure to watch you learn, evolve, and leave your mark on our school over the last four years.”
Borger, in her closing, urged the newest Colgate alumni to not forget the valuable lessons they learned while on campus.
“Your student days at Colgate are indeed over. That’s the bittersweet news. The good news is that you’re not really leaving – you can, and you should, take Colgate with you.”