Accelerating out of a curve can feel pretty darn good. After two years of Commencement weekends that were, to say the least, attenuated, we enjoyed a celebration of the class of 2022 that was unbridled, unfettered, and exuberant from stem to stern. What a class. Forged by their unique experiences, determination, and Macarena skills (the senior gala was so great, you should have been there), this class is one for the ages.
I admit to being a sucker for graduations, and I am old enough to have seen more — many more — than nearly any of you. But, let me tell you about one Key (yes, I meant to capitalize that word) reason why this Commencement will be memorable for everyone present. In past years the Senior Class Officers, who select Beloit’s Commencement speaker, have made truly spectacular decisions, but they have now set the bar sky high. Our very own Tori Key’03 was our speaker and she was a solid gold rock star.
Let me give you an abstract of what Tori said.
To provide a less racist environment and better opportunities for her children, Glenda Key moved her family — including Tori as a young girl — from the Mississippi side of Memphis to Beloit. Graduating as an honors student from Beloit Memorial High School, Tori chose to attend Beloit College from among the high-quality colleges wooing her. A Beloiter squared, Tori was among the most accomplished graduates of her class, even earning the prestigious Martha Peterson Prize honoring the student who best exemplifies the ideals of a liberal arts education.
This last bit is really important because Tori spent her time at Beloit balancing multiple life and career objectives in deeper and deeper ways — financial stability, purpose, meaning. All things that matter in the most profound ways to every single graduate sitting in the audience who is grappling with and trying to figure out how to deal with exactly the same conflicts and tradeoffs.
Of course, Tori has been spectacularly high achieving: a graduate degree from a world-class university; career promotions and professional awards at a very fast pace; she has earned her place as a Commencement speaker at her alma mater and an honorary doctorate from the same.
But, here’s the thing. Tori took the moment to do two spectacular things I have never seen at a Commencement before. She told these graduates who were sitting there trying to figure out their lives and their futures, that the eminent Tori Key — this person who was among the most impressive people they could ever imagine, this stunningly “together” superstar — was still figuring it out. She gave everyone in the audience permission and space to be human. Ambitious, purposeful, thoughtful, engaged, passionate, and fundamentally human.
And then, she connected specific graduates’ passions and interests to specific challenges we face as a world. She validated their dreams and aspirations, and she gave them a guiding sentence to help them figure it out.
Tori talked about a lifetime of “hitting above her weight,” and she delivered a one-two punch at Commencement unlike any other. Thank you, Tori.
One more thing. Tori is an alumna of Beloit College. It is really important to remember that. In foundational ways, she is you. I get the honor of hearing insights much like Tori provided from alumni across the country. It is among the very best parts of my job. And, one or more members of the graduating class — our newest alumni — will be a Tori Key-ish Commencement speaker in 30 years — or fewer.
That is the glory of Beloit College. It was and will be a great day to be a Beloiter.
From here at Chapin’s desk,
President Scott Bierman