Jump the navigation

Coming Together for Whitman’s 137th Commencement

The Class of 2023 was congratulated for their commitment to leadership, learning and each other

By Margie Reece ’93

Photography by Kim Fetrow ’96 of Kim Fetrow Photography

In her first Presidential Address at a Whitman College Commencement Ceremony, President Sarah Bolton spoke to both tradition and community.

“No matter how far you travel as you undertake your life’s work, you will always be part of this Whitman family,” Bolton said. She referenced the old saying “may the wind always be at your back” and pledged to the Class of 2023 that they had “something even better.”

“You will always have the many generations of Whitman alumni, who have made this college, and your education here possible, at your back, ready to help you along life’s every path,” Bolton said.

The Class of 2023 were first-year students when the pandemic sent them home in the spring of 2020—and Bolton marveled at their achievements and even more at the bonds they have forged despite what they faced to maintain their learning and sense of community.

“You support and care for each other in times of loss as well as celebration, and you invest yourselves deeply in one another’s well-being, success and joy,” Bolton said. “You have faced and addressed challenging issues in ways that are well-informed and respectful, listening to one another while also holding true to your values and moral center.”

She shared her gratitude for what she’s witnessed in her time here getting to know this graduating class.

“Thank you for your deep engagement and hard work to help Whitman become an even better place. Your leadership has mattered here, and it will continue to matter in the world you will enter tomorrow.”

Celebrating the Class of 2023

Chair-elect of the Board of Trustees Joe Davis ’80 helped open Whitman’s 137th Commencement by welcoming graduates, as well as all the various people—family, friends, faculty and staff—who supported them along the way. He also thanked the Class of 2023 for their enthusiastic participation in events, their engagement in critical issues and for something that meant a lot to him and his fellow Trustees.

“Quite heartening to me, you have warmly welcomed and embraced our new President, Dr. Sarah Bolton,” Davis said.

Representing their graduating class at the podium were two Whitties: Aidan Macpherson ’23 and Elena McHargue ’23. In their light-hearted, bantery duo-logue, there were moments of fun, reflection and reassurance. The pair encouraged their classmates to lean into the unfamiliar as the venture into their futures—and to trust the process and themselves.

“Coming to college as a first-year was probably one of the first big life changes many of us have experienced,” said Macpherson. “We jumped into a new environment which felt terrifying at the time, yet here we are. We made it through. … This is a class of really hard working and really kind individuals, so please keep working hard and showing kindness like I’ve witnessed, and I guarantee you will find your way.”

Macpherson, from Chicago, Illinois, earned a degree in Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology. McHargue, from Boise, Idaho, graduated with a combined degree in Economics-Mathematics with a minor in Psychology.

Welcoming Back a Whittie

When it was time for the Commencement Speaker to be introduced, a member of the Class of 2023 also took the stage: Cheysen Cabuyadao-Sipe from Lahaina Hawaii. Cabuyadao-Sipe has been a campus leader throughout his time at Whitman, including serving as the President of the Indigenous Peoples Education and Culture Club, a student group that is dedicated to addressing Indigenous issues on campus through educational programs, activities and speakers.

Cabuyadao-Sipe welcomed back to campus Amber Ebarb ’03, who is currently serving in the 118th Congress as Minority Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Ebarb graduated from Whitman in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology.

In her first time back to campus in two decades, Ebarb shared about who she is and where she comes from. “I am Tlingit. We are a people indigenous to Southeast Alaska,” she said.

In Ebarb’s particular clan, “We believe that knowledge of who we are helps us to bear loss, whether that is the loss of loved ones or the loss of homelands or other exile. It helps us to be more resilient. Knowing who we are is critical to understanding our relationships and responsibilities to each other.”

She also acknowledged and commended the progress Whitman has made in its relationship with local Tribes.

“I’ve learned from talking to students and faculty that the class of 2023—and Whitman as an institution—has embarked on the hard but vital work of understanding Whitman’s story in this region, in history and with its Indigenous neighbors. I sincerely commend you for this important work.

“To see an institution engage in a more holistic and respectful way with the Tribes in this region is so meaningful,” Ebarb said.

“A well-rounded understanding of who we are, the history of this place, and our responsibilities to each other is pivotal to healing. The fact that Whitman college students, faculty and leadership are engaging in these conversations, implementing institutional change to better engage as neighbors, and pursuing healing—I can’t thank you enough.”

Watch the recording: View the 137th Whitman College Commencement, May 21, 2023.

Published on May 21, 2023
beaker duck hiker icon-a-to-z icon-arrow-circle-down icon-arrow-circle-up icon-arrow-down icon-arrow-left icon-arrow-right icon-arrow-up icon-calendar-no-circle icon-calendar icon-camera icon-clock icon-cv icon-dot icon-down-triangle icon-email-circle icon-email icon-external-link icon-facebook icon-flickr icon-generic-blog icon-google-plus icon-home icon-instagram icon-library icon-link-circle icon-link-inverted icon-linkedin icon-lock icon-magazine icon-map-pin icon-map2 icon-menu-hamburger icon-menu-mobile-a icon-menu-mobile-b icon-menu-x icon-mywhitman-cog icon-news icon-phone icon-pinterest icon-play icon-quote icon-search-a icon-search-b icon-search-mobile-a icon-search-mobile-b icon-share icon-snail-mail icon-tumblr icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube logo-whitman-nc-flat logo-whitman-nc-stacked logo-whitman-no-clocktower slider-category-arrow-2px slider-category-arrow-no-line slider-category-arrow-solid slider-category-arrow slider-category-line-2px slider-category-line-solid slider-category-line tc_icon-filmstrip-fl tc_icon-filmstrip-ln tc_icon-play-fl-closed tc_icon-play-fl-open tc_icon-play-ln-closed tc_icon-play-ln-open wifi