Jump the navigation

Finally, Their Moment—Whitman’s Class of 2024 Receives Diplomas

More than 300 graduates crossed the Commencement stage cheered on by joyful families and friends

By Margie Reece ’93

Photography by Kim Fetrow ’96 of Kim Fetrow Photography and Lia Beatty ’21

2024 Whitman College Commencement Graduates

In the spring of 2020, COVID-19 led to worldwide shutdowns. “Unprecedented” became everyday vocabulary and high school seniors preparing for their graduations watched those plans be canceled as they hunkered down at home.

Today, four years later, more than 300 of those students—and their families and friends—had their moment to celebrate well-earned diplomas at Whitman College’s 138th Commencement.


On a breezy Sunday morning in front of the traditional setting of Memorial Building, President Sarah Bolton welcomed the graduates and the crowd and acknowledged how this class’s collegiate start began online, separated by distance and the threat of disease.

“Despite all that uncertainty, you took the courageous step to start college anyway—from around the corner or across the world,” said Bolton, who congratulated the class on their resilience and on helping move Whitman forward in their time as students.

“Together, you rebuilt the life of this college as the world gradually reopened … Together, you made a new, stronger Whitman—one that has new student organizations, new ways of building community, new landscapes, new ways serving communities in Walla Walla and around the world.”

‘Greatest Comeback Kids In History’

Commencement Speaker Cecilia Kang ’94 took to the podium 30 years to the day since her own Whitman College Commencement ceremony.

Kang is an award-winning National Correspondent at The New York Times, where she reports on the intersection of technology and public policy, translating complex issues to broad audiences.

Kang, like Bolton, commended the graduates on their perseverance during and following the pandemic, calling them “the most resilient, grittiest and greatest comeback kids in history.”

Her speech drew on her own Whitman experience and also her journalistic expertise in technology. She emphasized the profound implications of AI on society, and urged this next generation of Whittie graduates to be mindful of these changes and to think critically about their role in a tech-driven world.

“Be beacons of critical thinking in a sea of misinformation, champions of courage in the face of uncertainty, and ambassadors of love in a world hungering for connection and understanding,” Kang said.

“Never stop asking questions. And think critically and rigorously. It’s more fun, anyway, than just learning and reciting facts.”

What you know and how much you know won’t be as important as how you think, how you feel and how you love. Double down on your humanness: your mind, gut and heart. —Celicia Kang ’94 in her Whitman College 2024 Commencement address

Cecilia Kang Commencement Speaker

‘Be Led By Your Why’

Kang urged the Class of 2024 to find and follow their “why”—and used her storytelling talents to note some specific members of the class who discovered passions and meaningful causes during their time at Whitman.

Kang's address also included everyday practical advice that the graduates can take with them as they leave college and make lives of their own in a complex and ever changing world.

“Go outside, everyday. Look at trees and the sky and feel the sun … Read more than scroll, and read for fun. Read poetry. Call—don’t text—your parents, friends and siblings. Even better, see them in real life.”

Watch the recording: View the 138th Whitman College Commencement, May 19, 2024.

Published on May 19, 2024
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