Rose Gottlieb and Austin Biehl

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Photography by Matt Banderas '04

In early April, Whitman seniors take an hour out of their busy schedules to decide on a class speaker or speakers for the Commencement ceremony. Candidates line up and present one by one the speeches they think best represent the sentiments of the Class of 2016. Of the 14 choices this year, one duo emerged as the clear winners: psychology majors Rose Gottlieb '16 and Austin Biehl '16

How did you know that you wanted to speak at graduation?

Biehl: After passing our written exams, we were sort of hit with the realization that the end was nigh. Since we knew that there was no way to get out of graduating, we figured that we might as well go out with a bang.

Gottlieb: Speaking at graduation seemed like the perfect way to capstone our four years at Whitman.

Do you both have a lot of past speaking experience?

Gottlieb: I've been on Varsity Nordic for all my four years of college and Austin has written for the humor section of the school newspaper for the past year.

Biehl: So to answer your question, no we don't have much experience, but we think that together we make one almost qualified graduation speaker.

What are you most excited to say?

Gottlieb: It's been fun for us to reflect on the past four years and realize the sheer quantity of weird, ironic, ridiculous things that Whitman has to offer. We hope to be able to pay tribute to Whitman in all of its quirky glory. So while we are looking forward to making some jokes and having some fun, we also want to use this as an opportunity to celebrate a place that has meant so much to us.

Why did you want to speak together? Why not alone?

Biehl: Imagine Tina Fey without Amy Poehler, Frodo without Sam, a Jewett room without a couch bed. In other words, we both thought that it would be much more fun to work with another person. 

Gottlieb: We both wanted to have someone to bounce ideas off of, and generally laugh with. 

Biehl: Also, Rose and I became friends whilst selling mini-fridges in 95-degree heat to eager first years.

Gottlieb: Since that experience was fun, we knew that we could conquer pretty much anything.

Biehl: Plus it's nice to have someone to blame when things go wrong!

This year's Whitman College Commencement ceremony takes place Sunday, May 22 at 11 a.m. on the Memorial Building South Lawn