2015 Commencement Senior Class Speaker
- By Esther Wilson, a writer who sometimes writes, June 5, 2015
GALESBURG, IL – The 170th Knox College graduating class will grace the south lawn of Old Main this upcoming Sunday, June 7, 2015. Kathryn Todd will take to the podium and deliver a speech on behalf of the senior class during the commencement exercises.
Kathryn is a native of Chicago, IL and she attended high school at Daniel Hale Williams Preparatory School of Medicine.While a student at Knox, Kathryn was a Spanish major with a minor in social service. She was selected to speak for the graduating class by a committee of her peers, and the senior class voted to have her deliver the senior message at graduation.
Kathryn wrote the commencement speech to focus on the Knox experience that was shared among her peers. “We have all been through so much to get to where we are today, but the fact that we are here means that we are resilient.” Kathryn shared, “We made this experience our own. We have allowed Knox to become a part of us and we have left part of our legacy here at Knox.”
Making the Knox Experience Her Own
Kathryn embraced the Knox experience whole-heartedly and made it her own. “I knew that I wanted to go to a small college and when I visited Knox it felt like home,” she explained about her decision to become a Knox student. “As a first generation college student, my Knox education means the world to me. It makes me a trailblazer. This degree means that I will have access to things my parents and grandparents did not.”
Once the decision was made to become a Knox student, Kathryn took advantage of many opportunities on campus. This year Kathryn was the recipient of the prestigious Dean Deborah Wing Award, which is awarded to a senior woman in recognition of scholastic achievements, activities on campus and in the community, and overall contributions to advancing the status of women in the Knox community. Additionally, she earned several awards during the time she studied abroad. Kathryn was awarded the Sherman Brown Memorial Award, Veneziano Travel Fund, and the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship.
Kathryn earned college Honors and membership in the Knox College chapter of Mortar Board. She participated in the Knox swimming team and was a house monitor in the Allied Blacks for Liberty and Equality (ABLE) House. She also spent four terms studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Kathryn described studying abroad as “by far the best experiences that I have had. Those will forever be the memories from college that I will hold closest to my heart.” She spent an academic year in Barcelona and spent a term in Argentina, where she hosted a weekly radio program that was broadcast to the entire city of Buenos Aires.
“[Kathryn was] savvy at getting to know a city, a university, a host family and the local culture impressed me.” Tim Foster, PhD, Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures and director of the Buenos Aires Study Abroad Program, recalled his experiences with Kathryn. “We got to know each other talking about day to day life survival skills abroad as well as the grandeurs of nature hiking in the jungles near Iguazú Falls and climbing glaciers in Patagonia. Kathryn took advantage of every opportunity presented her by the Knox Program in Buenos Aires.”
Leaving a Legacy of Resilience and Excellence
An interesting part of Kathryn’s Knox experience is that she did not initially plan to study Spanish. Professor Jesse Dixon, PhD, Associate Professor of Spanish and Chair of Modern Languages, described Kathryn’s first Spanish courses at Knox:
“I met [Kathryn] at the Spanish Table when she was a first-year student taking the 101A series. She said Spanish was challenging and she was determined to be successful in studying it. She later took Spanish 230C culture course (and subsequently other courses) with me and met with me outside of class regularly to discuss the topic further, and assure that she was understanding the material and making progress speaking. She has really made the most of her educational experience at Knox.”
Knox professors quickly developed similar impressions of Kathryn: she was determined to achieve academic success and she invested great time and energy towards that success. Professor Foster formed this opinion of Kathryn when she was first in his class, “I sort of knew from Fernando (Gómez) that she was a talented hard-worker. That "deer in the headlights" look that almost always met my direct queries wasn't going to work. My patience is infinite with students when waiting for comment. Kathryn and I crack up about those days. She is not terrified of me or Spanish anymore. Instead, we are great colleagues and Kathryn's Spanish is getting to be of near native fluency.”
Similarly, Professor Cesar Akuetey, PhD, Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures, noted Kathryn possessed a sense of determination and that she worked very hard to succeed. Dr. Akuetey was a member of Kathryn’s Honor’s Committee, and he commented: “Kathryn was a very engaging student in my Introduction to Linguistics class when she was a sophomore. She was visibly angry with herself when she was not able to grasp a new concept presented in class. She would constantly come to my office to seek more information about a particular lesson. She was indeed an avid learner.”
Kathryn captured the spirit of Knox. She challenged herself and became immersed in the pursuit of knowledge and education. Along the way, she touched lives and made long lasting impressions on professors, alumni, and her peers.
“In a wonderful Knox tradition, Kathryn has given back to the very mentors that made her experiences and growth possible. Just last week she presented the findings of her Honors project to the entire Modern Languages and Literatures Department.” Dr. Foster shared, “She made us think about the student experience in language classes and gave us ideas for inspiring even more students to continue language study after the requirement thereby preparing even more students for study abroad. The circle is complete. I consider Kathryn, more former student, a colleague in the project that is Knox College.”
It seems fitting that Kathryn will stand before Knox faculty and the families and friends of the graduating class. She has a message that resonates with the Knox tradition of service, excellence, scholarly achievement, and academic engagement.
“I am excited and honored to be chosen as this year's class speaker.” Kathryn commented about the upcoming commencement exercises. “I know that I am the woman that I am because of the help of so many of the people that will be sitting in the audience on Sunday. I couldn't think of a greater honor than being able to address them one last time.”
Kathryn at the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares Park in during her study abroad term in Argentina.
Kathryn at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy during her 2013 study abroad year in Barcelona, Spain.
Can’t attend the commencement exercises? Watch live on the Knox College YouTube channel. Be sure to look out for Kathryn’s speech!