Dec. 17, 2012
More than 900 students will get their degrees this winter
Nick Lawrie '13 decided to go back to school at age 29 to increase his earning potential and relieve the job insecurity he'd been feeling as a political campaigner. He will graduate in January with much more: the ability to follow his passion for labor and human rights, thanks to his ILR major and Cornell financial aid.
"You could want to do legal aid or something to help others, but if you have massive debt, that might not be realistic. I feel really blessed, because I don't have that, thanks to the generosity of the university and thanks to Cornell for giving me a chance. I can now do something where, when I come home at the end of the day, I can honestly say, 'I really helped someone today,'" Lawrie said.
The ILR major was one of 300 graduates who participated in the Dec. 15 recognition event and reception for January 2013 graduates in Barton Hall. Almost 2,000 friends and family also attended.
In opening remarks, Cornell President David Skorton first honored the memory of those who lost their lives Dec. 14 in the elementary school tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
A total of 916 students will graduate in January, more than half of them earning graduate and professional degrees. Among those receiving bachelor's degrees, 20 percent are international students, as are half of the graduate- and professional-degree candidates, "continuing this university's rich, nearly 150-year history of attracting scholars in every field from every corner of the globe," Skorton said. "This is one of many, many ways Cornell University has and will continue to give back to the world."
The world has never been in greater need of the skills and perspectives the graduates can provide, Skorton said, given the challenges that range from global climate change to doubts about the future of the European Union.
"Yet looking out at this sea of caps and gowns here in Barton this morning, I am optimistic, not only for you, graduates, but because of your skills and youth and energy, I am optimistic for all of us," Skorton said. Members of the graduating class have already done much to lift the world's burdens, he said, from raising funds so that orphans in Uganda and Haiti can attend school to teaching in the Cornell Prison Education Program, reaching inmates in central New York.
For his part, Lawrie spent spring 2011 on an internship with the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, investigating and reporting on unfair labor practices of all kinds. And he was a member of Cornell Organization for Labor Action, through which he took part in such events as successful campaigns to persuade the university to pressure Nike and to cut ties with adidas over worker rights abuses in manufacturing Cornell clothing.
"It's been said we make a living from what we get, but we make a life from what we give," Skorton said during the recognition event. "And in this season of gratitude and giving, which is part of so many of our cultural traditions, you -- each of you -- have every reason for confidence about the kind of life you will lead and the role that you can play, and I hope you will play, in the world."
Those words apply to Lawrie. In 2013, he plans to spend time with his 7-month-old son, Will -- a member of Cornell's Class of 2033, Lawrie quipped. Then Lawrie will prep for the LSAT and apply to law schools, he said. "I hope that I can one day become a labor or human rights lawyer, or anything else where I can get a shot at standing up for the little guy. Maybe some day I can help to sponsor a social justice classroom and scholarship at Cornell, so that I can pay it forward for others who come after me."