Henry Y. Lu, Valedictorian

My fellow students, professors, staff, families, members of the Williams community,

We gather here today to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2019, the achievements not just of students, but of all of us, as a community. Every graduate has stories of how we have been shaped by the Williams community, whether it was a peer or staff member who helped us through a difficult time, a professor or alum who supported our professional development, or a local community member who made us feel welcome. Today, I will share a few of my own memories as we reflect upon what it means to be a part of this Williams community.

When I first came to Williams, I drove right past campus. All of the mountains looked the same. My freshman fall, I worked at the Williamstown Historical Museum, where I became friends with a local Williamstown resident, Patrick. He showed me the town, the farms, and even the cows. He named the mountains for me. Patrick became a part of my local community.

Williams followed me beyond the Purple Valley. When I searched for some place to live while studying away for a semester in Boston, I found a room in a charming New England home, which turned out to be owned by a Williams alum, Alan. Alan taught me to barbecue lamb chops and to become a professional in using his kitchen. He even joked that I learned more from him than at Williams. When I think of what advice Alan might have for our graduating class, I hear his voice reminding us: Never forget to turn off the gas stove.

This January, another alum, Bill, gave me the opportunity to gain experience at his company in Munich and Hong Kong. Despite how busy they were, Bill and his team took the time to teach me about their work and inspire me with their example. Bill and Alan became a part of my global community.

My most meaningful takeaways from Williams are the relationships built with the people here—the conversations, the shared experiences, the bonds that grow with time. My peers, you have taught me to care deeply for one another, to listen, to empathize, to understand. I will continue to cherish the relationships built here with some of the most important people in my life. You have become a part of my extended family.

Lastly, our professors taught us important life lessons. When we faced setbacks, they taught us to come back stronger and smarter. They also exemplified putting people first. When some of us were on campus over the summer and the school year, they invited us to their homes for Thanksgiving, for the Fourth of July, for dinners and conversations. Our professors: You have become our role models and mentors for years to come.

My fellow classmates…

As we step forth from the Purple Valley as alumni, we will be joining new communities and forming new bonds. We will become a part of someone else’s local community, global community, family, and mentors. Let us remember the example of those who have done so much for our education and personal growth. And when the opportunity arises, seize it: Name the mountains for someone else.

Thank you.

[Thank you, Professor Rhon Manigault-Bryant and Professor Stephen Fix, for your valuable comments. Thank you, Angela Chan ’19, for your endless support.]