Janene White Senior Commencement Speaker
SALISBURY, MD--It was an ordinary mid-term during her sophomore year, another exam lost amidst the constant barrage of papers, presentations and tests that mark college life. But Janene White (Huntingtown, MD) Salisbury State University’s 1999 senior commencement speaker, remembers this one very clearly. Dr. Gerald St. Martin of the Modern Languages Department mysteriously entered the room and distributed a sheet containing the exam’s single question: "Explain the significance of windows and doors in Albert Camus’ The Stranger."
White recalls being on the verge of tears at the thought of answering such a question when, 15 minutes later, Dr. St. Martin coyly re-entered the room and, grinning, announced, "April Fools’ Day!"
It is with these fond remembrances that White explains one of her reasons for choosing Salisbury State. "I feel fortunate to have attended college here because it’s a community wherein students can get to know their professors on more than an academic level," she said.
A French and secondary education major, she plans on teaching language to high school students after graduation: eventually she would like to teach abroad. Her most memorable University experience came during trips to Tours, France, in the summer of 1998, and Cuenca, Ecuador, in late 1998 to study at the Centro de Estudios Interamericanos.
As to why she wrote the commencement speech, White said, "I wanted to sit down and think about what had happened to me in the last four years ... what I had learned."
In the speech, she quotes poet Sylvia Plath. "In our lives we become so comfortable sometimes, and we forget to take the time to look for Sylvia Plath’s ‘respites from neutrality,’" White said. The poem "makes us really pay attention ... to make the most out of what’s around us."
White uses several passages from Plath’s Black Rook in Rainy Weather to convey her ultimate message: Regardless of what SSU graduates do in the future, may they always be open to finding those much-needed "respites from neutrality."
"Life shouldn’t be a mediocre experience," White said. "It isn’t just about being comfortable, but taking the time to do something that really matters... something you care about."
Four years at SSU has showed White just that: In her words to find the time to reflect on, and the courage to be awed by, life’s events.
Salisbury State University’s commencement is Sunday, May 23, at 3 p.m. in the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center. Graduating with White will be 836 bachelor degree and 93 master degree recipients. Maryland’s First District Congressman Wayne Gilchrest is keynote speaker. Tickets are required. For more information contact the SSU Public Relations Office at 410-543-6030.