A Life in Balance

Make time for family and friends and pursue a career about which you are passionate, Anne-Marie Slaughter advises Tufts graduates
View photos from the 2014 Commencement.
May 18, 2014

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A work life without time for family and friends and pleasure and play is an unfulfilled life, Anne-Marie Slaughter told the more than 3,400 graduates assembled on the Tufts academic quad on May 18. Celebrate idleness, she said, and remember that great insights and discoveries have not come from staring at a computer screen but from times “when we sit back, rub our eyes, go for a walk, read a book or give our children a bath.”

To make that happen, both men and women need to find ways to combine their work and family lives, said Slaughter, a former Princeton University dean and U.S. State Department official whose article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” published in The Atlantic in 2012, renewed a national debate on the continued obstacles to full male-female equality.

She told the young men in the audience that they should begin thinking now about how to balance work and family. Her message to the women, meanwhile, was that they must make sure they pursue careers about which they are passionate and not assume it’s automatically up to them to juggle kids and career.

Slaughter, a scholar of international relations and law and the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, was the keynote speaker at Tufts’ 158th commencement, held on a gloriously sunny spring day on the Medford/Somerville campus. The university awarded 1,509 undergraduate degrees and 1,961 graduate degrees. Slaughter received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Watch a video from Commencement 2014. Video: Steffan Hacker

Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco also presented honorary degrees to James M. Lawson Jr., an architect of the American civil rights nonviolence movement; Jill Lepore, J87, the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker; Haruki Murakami, the Japanese novelist who has been praised for his work as a writer and translator; and James A. Stern, E72, A07P, a financier and philanthropist who is chairman emeritus of the Tufts Board of Trustees.

While graduation day is ostensibly about the graduates, Slaughter said, “it’s really and equally about your families—all those you love . . . who come together to celebrate the milestones of your life. They are with you for birthdays, coming-of-age ceremonies, graduations, weddings, births and anniversaries. And they are with you in the darker moments of life, supporting you in disappointments, depression and the loss of those you love. Indeed, part of what defines a milestone in your lives is that family members gather to share it.”

If you marry someone with career aspirations equal to your own, she told the men, be prepared to defer your own promotion if necessary or be willing to take care of a child or parent. “Providing care is every bit as important as providing cash,” she said.

“Remember that if that family comes first throughout your life, your work will not come second,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter. “Your life will come together.” Photo: Alonso NicholsChoose a life partner, she advised the women, on the assumption that you will be equals, both breadwinners and caregivers, because “life throws you curve balls with children who need more time or more care than others, marriages that crumble, loved ones who get sick.” If you marry a man, “you must see his caring side as every bit as masculine as his competitive side,” she said. “Look for a man who thinks Don Draper has missed out on what is most important in life.”

Slaughter addressed the president, trustees, faculty and staff directly, saying that in addition to making a commitment to teaching and nurturing students, they should also serve as models to support healthier, happier lives. “Remind [students] that time spent hanging out with their friends—talking, laughing, eating, playing—is every bit as important as one more course or extracurricular activity.”

Lastly, she told the new graduates to think of this day as one that “strengthens the very fabric of family. And remember that if that family comes first throughout your life, your work will not come second. Your life will come together.”

Complete coverage of Tufts’ 158th commencement >>

School of Medicine and Sackler School

Medical class president Angela Kang, A08, M14, MPH14, receives her hood. Photo: Matthew Healey

At the 122nd commencement ceremonies for the School of Medicine and the 34th for the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, the roster of speakers sounded uniformly hopeful notes in the face of marked flux and instability within the nation’s medical and research fields.

“It’s an interesting time” to be graduating, Dean Harris Berman told the medical graduates, while reminding them that the reasons they entered medicine in the first place—the desire to care for their patients in compassionate and effective ways—had not gone anywhere. “There are new organizational models and payment systems, and you will be asked to do more with less, but patients will trust in you and confide in you, just like always,” he noted. Acting responsibly throughout your career to make a difference in patients’ lives, he said, constitutes “the final reward.”

The terms of the deal having shifted don't mar the perennial value of medical practice, Berman suggested. “You are poised to have wonderful careers doing good,” he told the graduates assembled before him in the Gantcher Center on the Medford/Somerville campus. “Go do it.”

Angela Kang, A08, the medical class president, struck a valiant tone in her remarks, recalling the class’s long journey “that started with blood and brains” in the first-year anatomy class. When a snowstorm threatened to halt studies one winter day, class members “strapped on our snowshoes, hitched up our husky dogs” and made it into class regardless, she said. Last year’s Boston Marathon bombings raised serious issues for members of her class, Kang pointed out, eliciting fear and prompting questions about whether they could exhibit the same humility and courage they witnessed that day on the city streets.

“We are proud and grateful,” declared Kang, who also received a master’s in public health. “My fellow graduates, we take an exhilarating step forward today.”

Naomi Rosenberg, dean of the Sackler School, exuded pride in her remarks. “I’m very pleased with your achievements,” she told the graduates. “All of you have found challenges in your work, and you’ve met and mastered these challenges in wonderful ways.” She cited a few of the regular milestones of attaining an advanced degree, a process often stretching over many years, including the student’s first biochemistry exam and first thesis committee meeting—and the widespread anxieties surrounding these markers. “You are well prepared. You know how to struggle and persevere,” Rosenberg said. “We wish you all the best in your future pursuits.”

Holly Ponichtera, who gave the Sackler student address, had The Wizard of Oz on her mind as she thought back over her classmates’ path to the present hour. A yellow brick road of sorts had brought them all to a moment where America still leads the world in biomedical research, a status that seems unthreatened, despite ongoing NIH budget cutbacks. They were now prepared to enter this realm. “You may remember that in The Wizard of Oz everyone got what they wanted in the end. Well, congratulations, good luck, God bless,” Ponichtera told her fellow graduates. “Our dreams really did come true.”

School of Dental Medicine

“Your compassion, your flexibility, your willingness to volunteer not only enhances your clinical skills, but improves access to care to the underserved,” Dean Huw Thomas told the newest dental alumni. Photo: Alonso NicholsAt Tufts School of Dental Medicine’s 146th commencement ceremony, Dean Huw Thomas commended the graduates for their academic achievements as well as their “moral support and dedication” to each other, to their patients and to the needs of the underserved.

That dedication, he said, is symbolized by their choice to create a scholarship in honor of classmate Shoji Inomata, who underwent a heart transplant as a second-year dental student. Now fully recovered, Inomata is on pace to graduate in May 2015.

“Your compassion, your flexibility, your willingness to volunteer not only enhances your clinical skills, but improves access to care to the underserved,” Thomas told the newest dental alumni. “You bring honor to the school.”

Noting that finding “creative and meaningful ways to serve the underserved” is a core value of a Tufts dental education, Robert Kasberg, associate dean for admissions and student affairs, praised the Class of 2014’s prolific research efforts, their pro bono work abroad, the care they provided to U.S. military members and their families and the time spent volunteering to teach other students.

Class president Andrew Tonelli urged his peers to be unabashed advocates for dental and overall health. “We’ve all seen what it means to have your health taken away from you, and we’ve had the privilege to be shown by Shoji how it’s possible to overcome that,” he said. “When times are tough, count your blessings. When they are not, find someone for whom they are and give them a hand. Leave the cynicism for politics and teenagers.”

At the ceremony, 192 students were awarded Doctor of Dental Medicine degrees, and 13 students received Master of Science degrees.

Michael Kahn, professor and chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral Medicine and Craniofacial Pain, received the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Teaching and Service. Quinn Chan, clinical instructor of prosthodontics and operative dentistry, received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching, and Timothy Hempton, associate clinical professor of periodontology, received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Preclinical Teaching. Rebecca Lufler, lecturer in integrative physiology and pathobiology at the School of Medicine, received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Basic Science Teaching.

Friedman School

Graduates listen to Jody Adams give the Commencement address. Photo: Kelvin MaThoughts of oven-fresh whole wheat bread and succulent lamb filled Cohen Auditorium on the Medford/Somerville campus as award-winning chef Jody Adams gave the address at the 33rd commencement ceremony of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Adams, who owns the Boston restaurants Rialto and Trade and is known for her commitment to hunger relief, touched on some of the memorable recipes in her career as she told the 99 graduates to follow their passion and keep learning. (The whole wheat bread, for instance, is from a recipe she created specifically for a hospital in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.) She talked about exiting her comfort zone when she competed on the television show Top Chef Masters, where she scrambled to create dishes out of unexpected ingredients—including a giant clam and the frozen leg of a mature goat—to impress celebrated food critics. “Do the things that scare you—again and again and again,” she said.

Adams said that although the graduates know far more about nutrition science and policy than she does, she could offer one piece of advice as a chef and restaurateur: “Food affects people’s hearts—their sense of who they are—as much as it does their stomachs,” she said. “Ask yourself, does what you’re doing take note of that? Speaking from experience I can assure you—if you don’t include the one, you’ll never reach the other.”

Blanche Ip, N12, N14, one of 11 Friedman School graduates receiving a doctoral hood this day, gave the class address.

“When I started at Friedman, I prided myself on being independent and self-sufficient,” she said. But she soon realized that figuring out the appropriate scientific questions to ask, and then answering them, was going to mean asking for guidance from both her professors and her classmates.

“I hope you have taken a lesson from Friedman on the importance of working together as a team, just like the gut microbiome,” she said, referring to the trillions of microbial cells that live in our digestive system and work with the human body to help govern our health. “Convergence is a new paradigm that can yield critical advances in a broad array of sectors, from health care to food, agriculture and water. Let us all collaborate, converge, embrace and make a difference.”

Cummings School

Graduates celebrate their accomplishments with friends and families. Photo: Andrew CunninghamAt Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s 32nd commencement ceremony, 138 students received diplomas. While most earned D.V.M. degrees to practice as veterinarians, others received master’s degrees in public health, in laboratory animal medicine and in comparative biomedical sciences. Cummings School also graduated students with master’s degrees in animals and public policy and in conservation medicine and conferred a doctoral degree in biomedical sciences.

Student speaker Hillary Feldmann noted that Cummings School graduates help care for more than 100,000 patients during their four years, which translates into nearly 1,000 patients per student. “That number is far more significant than the number of exams you’ve taken or the number of hours spent in lectures. Being able to help those patients, our patients, and the families that adore them, was the reward of [those] demanding years and will continue to be the reward for decades more,” she said.

Gregory Wolfus, V98, director of Tufts at Tech Community Veterinary Clinic in Worcester, Mass., gave the faculty address. Ilene Segal, V87, president of the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association, administered the veterinarian’s oath.

Fletcher School

Fletcher School students celebrate at the main commencement ceremony. Photo: Kelvin MaDuring the Fletcher School’s 81st commencement ceremony, 331 graduates received degrees, including 193 Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy degrees and seven Ph.D.s.

Fletcher Class Day, on Saturday, May 17, was held on Fletcher Field. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, was the Class Day speaker and received the Dean’s Medal.

Class Day also featured remarks by Farah Pandith, F95, a member of the Fletcher Board of Advisors, and award presentations, including the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy to Aaron Snipe, a foreign service officer in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department. The Robert B. Stewart Prize for Outstanding First-Year Student went to Anna McCallie and Caleb Ziolkowski. The recipient of the Edmund A. Gullion Prize for Outstanding Second-Year Student was Kate Fedosova, and the Leo Gross Prize for Outstanding Student of International Law was awarded to Julia Brooks, Luca Urech and Amy Tan. Daniel Reifsnyder received the Peter Ackerman Award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation.

At the Fletcher School commencement ceremonies, Amy Tan and Robert R. Lynch, both of the Class of 2014, gave the class addresses. The James L. Paddock Teaching Award was given to Professor William C. Martel, and William R. Moomaw, professor of international environmental policy, was accorded emeritus status.

Marjorie Howard can be reached at marjorie.howard@tufts.edu. Additional reporting by Bruce Morgan, Jacqueline Mitchell and Julie Flaherty.