Stockbridge School Commencement at UMass Amherst Salutes 85 Graduates

AMHERST, Mass. – Speakers at the 87th commencement for the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst emphasized history and solidarity as 85 students in six majors received associate of science degrees in Bowker Auditorium this morning.

There were 14 degrees in arboriculture and community forest management conferred, 13 in equine industries, three in fruit and vegetable crops, four in horticulture, 24 in landscape contracting and 27 in turfgrass management.

William L. Mitchell, director of the Stockbridge School, presided at the ceremony with UMass Amherst Chancellor Robert C. Holub and Dean Steve Goodwin of the College of Natural Resources and the Environment. In his remarks to the graduates, Goodwin called the Stockbridge School “a gem” and said everyone associated with it forms a special family upon which graduates can rely in the future. He urged them to take a moment amid their celebrations to thank parents, friends and others who supported them in reaching their goals.

Recounting the school’s beginnings in the 1850s and 1860s and an anecdote about one of its early financial challenges, Holub said it “survives and thrives today despite the current economic difficulties because the Stockbridge School’s fields remain fertile and sustaining.” He said today’s graduates are fortunate to be joining the ranks of Stockbridge alumni, with their strong tradition of accomplishment and giving back to the school.

The 2009 commencement address was delivered by Paul E. Rogers, a newspaper columnist and radio talk show host who specializes in gardening. Rogers said the day was special to him as the 58th anniversary of his own graduation from the Stockbridge School in 1951, with a degree in floriculture. In fondly recalling his student days, Rogers predicted that today’s graduates will revisit their class notes over and over in the coming years, because “a quest for knowledge never ends” and “you will be and should be students for the rest of your lives.”

Rogers pointed out that Stockbridge School faculty members have now done their best to give this year’s graduates a firm foundation and exemplary education as tools they will sharpen and personalize in meeting the task ahead. “And what a task it is!” Rogers exclaimed, citing challenges he never dreamed of such as genetically modified foods and plants, the transition from pest control to pest management, awareness of the carbon footprint linked to human activities, better knowledge of chemicals and pesticides and understanding “our new role as ecologists.” He told the graduates, “Your contribution has never been more necessary, but you’re not alone; and as Stockbridge School graduates you are equipped, and you are ready.”