Commencement 2017

“We must protect freedom of speech. Let people speak their minds, but then do not hesitate to criticize them for spreading falsehoods,” philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist Daniel C. Dennett said to the 615 graduates at Trinity College’s 191st Commencement on Sunday, May 21.

Dennett, co-director of Tufts University’s Center for Cognitive Studies, as well as University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts, spoke to Trinity’s largest graduating class ever, with 581 undergraduates. Thirty-four graduate students also received their master’s degrees.

In recognition of his distinguished career and of his enormous contributions to the world of thought, Dennett was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Trinity alumnus D. David Dershaw ’70, founding director of the Breast Imaging Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, received an honorary doctor of science degree, and LaTanya Langley ’97, vice president and general counsel of BIC International Company, received an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Douglas Barrett Curtin, chosen as the Class of 2017 student speaker, talked about how the simple act of saying hello to someone can lead to life-changing interactions. “I said hello to a homeless man outside my internship one day. That man, Jake, ended up inspiring me to start a Food Recovery Network chapter at Trinity, which has led to more than 4,000 pounds of food being donated from Mather Dining Hall [to McKinney Shelter in Hartford],” said Curtin, a double major in political science and educational studies from Wayland, Massachusetts.


Phong Kim Quach of Vietnam was named valedictorian. He graduated summa cum laude with majors in biology and chemistry, both with honors. The salutatorian was Jessica Yetta Chotiner of North Carolina. She earned a B.S. summa cum laude with honors in her major of biology. She also minored in Italian language.

Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney said in her charge to the graduates, “Your education is not only good for you, it is for the good of society. My charge to you, in turn, is not only to use your good Trinity education, but to go out and show the world what it means to do — and to be — Trinity good.”

Trustee Awards for Faculty, Student, and Staff Excellence
Faculty: Sarah A. Raskin, 
Charles A. Dana Research Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
Students: Dung Anh Dam ’17, Elizabeth Valenzuela ’17
Staff: John Rose, John Rose College Organist-and-Directorship Distinguished Chair of Chapel Music and Adjunct Professor of Music, ex officio

The Thomas Church Brownell Prize for Teaching Excellence
Sarah Bilston, Associate Professor of English

The Dean Arthur H. Hughes Award for Achievement in Teaching
Katherine L. Bergren, Assistant Professor of English; Abigail Fisher Williamson, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy and Law

The Charles A. Dana Research Professorship Award
Kent D. Dunlap, Professor of Biology

The Charles A. Dana Research Associate Professorship Awards
Christopher Hager, Associate Professor of English; Sara Kippur, Associate Professor of Language and Culture Studies

For more on Commencement, please visit

To see additional pictures, view the photo gallery on Flickr.