Jesse Frehling is ready for life after college, even if he’s not sure what he will do with his bachelor’s degree in international affairs.
“Don’t ask what I’m doing after, all right?” the 22-year-old Skidmore College graduate said, only half kidding, as he gathered with classmates on the lawn at Saratoga Performing Arts Center for the college’s 103rd commencement. “Maybe you should get a better candidate who knows.”
During his four years at Skidmore, Frehling focused his learning on the Chinese language — he has been to China twice and is fluent in the language. The Red Hook native said he hopes to do “something to further those skills so I can use them in a professional setting.”
“I’m really excited to move onto something more real, more tangible, which I think Skidmore has prepared me to do,” he said.” I think the professors here are unbelievable, truly unbelievable, for the most part, and I’m really going to miss them, and I’m really going miss being in an environment that fosters intellectual development the way it does, because what other place than college are you in an environment where you are constantly learning?”
Frehling was among 712 graduates — the largest class in the college’s history — who donned caps and gowns to walk across the outdoor stage and be awarded a diploma Saturday.
Students from Hudson Valley Community College, Russell Sage College, the University at Albany and the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering also took part in Saturday commencement ceremonies.
Before proceeding down the lawn behind the Schenectady Pipe Band with their Skidmore classmates, friends Kelvin Tavarez and Jordyn Wartts, who earned degrees in health and exercise sciences, also felt ready to move on to the next thing.
Tavarez, of New York City, hopes to go to medical school, but first he’ll be teaching English in Spain. Wartts, of St. Louis, also wants to pursue medical school.
“Skidmore is a very comfortable bubble that you have to pop,” Tavarez, 22, said.
In addressing the class of 2014, senior class president Xavier Hatten thanked his classmates for preparing him for the next step.
Hatten’s speech, if it had a name — “which it does not,” he said to laughter — would have been called “Thank You.”
“Class of 2014: You’ve helped me find my way,” he said, choking back tears.
He asked the graduates to turn to their right and left and say “thank you for helping me find my way,” and they did without pause.
Students also heard from Skidmore alumna Janet Lucas Whitman and Neil Shubin, host of the PBS miniseries Your Inner Fish, who both received honorary degrees.
Whitman graduated in 1959, has served on the college’s board of trustees and was mayor of her hometown of Summit, N.J. She encouraged the graduates to serve their communities.
“Volunteer — say yes when asked to serve — whether it is to raise funds for your favorite nonprofit or to run for political office,” she said.
It was Shubin’s second time addressing the students, after speaking to them during their first year on campus.
Shubin’s book, “Your Inner Fish: A Journey Through the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body,” was summer reading for the class of graduates and tells of the discovery of the fossil Tiktaalik roseae, a 375-million-year-old fish with hands.
“It has been a true joy and privilege to be with you at the bookends of your time at Skidmore,” he said.
“Time flies and, coming from a paleontologist who thinks of life on the order of hundreds of millions of years, that says a lot.”