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President Obama’s science advisor headlines GMC commencement

POULTNEY—On Saturday, May 14, Dr. John P. Holdren, President Obama’s top advisor on science and technology issues, outlined for Green Mountain College graduates how “science and fact” have guided development of the Obama administration’s climate action plan.

“The science of climate change is based first on the fundamental physics and chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans, the physics of ice, and the biochemistry of living things,” he said.

Holdren noted that climate research is based on millions of measurements made by tens of thousands of scientists over many decades and at many different locations around the world. The results, he said, are no longer disputable—the earth’s climate is changing in ways that cannot be explained by purely natural causes.

“The projected harm we expect to deal with will be far smaller if we take early, strong, effective evasive action,” he said. “The distribution of the offensive emissions across the nations of the world means just about everybody must participate in that evasive action.”

Dr. Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology and the Senate-confirmed director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, was the guest speaker at the college’s 179th commencement exercises. During the ceremony he received an honorary doctor of science degree.

GMC awarded bachelor’s degree diplomas to 136 graduates at commencement exercises held outside on the Waldron Library lawn.

Among the graduates was Thomas Robert White of Hanover, N.H., the first student from the college’s online bachelor degree completion program to walk at commencement. The program provides an opportunity for students with some college credits to complete their degree in business or interdisciplinary studies. White graduated summa cum laude.

Over 70 graduate students received diplomas from one of the college’s four master’s degree programs including the Sustainable MBA and Master of Science degrees in sustainable food systems, environmental studies, and resilient and sustainable communities. Over 200 degrees were conferred in total, making the class of 2016 the largest in Green Mountain College history.

It was the final commencement for President Paul J. Fonteyn, who retires this spring after eight years of service.

The two student speakers, Corey Fletcher of Philadelphia, Penn., and Seraphina Mallon-Breiman of Woodstock, N.Y., shared their reminiscences with classmates of their four years at GMC.

“We’ve experienced immense privilege,” Mallon-Breiman told the audience. “We’ve been taught to think critically and promote ourselves with confidence. We’ve been tutored, flattered, coached, encouraged, listened to and congratulated. We are the lucky ones. But we have not become fully successful yet, because we have a responsibility to use these experiences, to go out and encourage those who were not as lucky. We are graduating into a world that is changing rapidly and here we are: the ones who get to inspire and direct that global movement.”

The pair ended their address by leading the audience in the Bill Withers song, “Lean on Me.”

Fletcher graduated from the college’s Progressive program, with a major in sustainable business and cultural inclusion in educational institutions. Mallon-Breiman graduated with a degree in sociology and anthropology.

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