Acting on Their Sentiments:
Yale F&ES Celebrates 113th Commencement
The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies celebrated its 113th Commencement on Monday, awarding diplomas to the 136 members of the Class of 2014.
The class included 129 Master's graduates — 10 Master of Forestry graduates, 3 Master of Forest Science, 84 Master of Environmental Management, and 32 Master of Environmental Science — and seven Ph.Ds.
During the ceremony, Dean Peter Crane urged the graduates to stay hungry for new ideas as they move into the next phases of their lives, but to remain humble about the complexity of the problems they’ll face.
He reminded them of the rich legacy of earlier generations of F&ESers, from iconic naturalist Aldo Leopold to the thousands of alumni working today to make the world a better place. And he challenged them to contemplate their own legacies as they begin to tackle the planet’s most profound environmental challenges.
“Today we stand at a crossroads, a time of transition not just for you but also for the world we live in,” Crane said. “Transitions historically bring great leaders. And you will be among them.”
Throughout the ceremony, there were also bittersweet remembrances of Jonah Adels, a beloved member of the class who passed away last year after a tragic car accident. “His deep spiritual sense and fundamental drive to create a better world moved him throughout his life,” Crane said.
In his memory, Crane announced the creation of a permanently endowed scholarship in Jonah’s name, the Jonah Meadows Adels Memorial Scholarship Fund. The initial $100,000 in funding will come from the School’s annual fund.
Ben Friedman M.E.M. ‘14, one of two class speakers, reminded his classmates that it was a deep love of nature that inspired many of them to enter the environmental field, and to take on work that will have effects long beyond their lifetimes — as he called it, “the ultimate long game.”
“What is special about our crowd is that we have chosen a career based on love,” he said. “What an extraordinary concept that is. Our professional identities are rooted in a personal conviction that is intimately tied to our deepest joys.
“Remember that joy,” he said, “when the work is overwhelming.”
“Our professional identities are rooted in a personal conviction that is intimately tied to our deepest joys. Remember that joy when the work is overwhelming.”
— Ben Friedman
Bessie Schwarz M.E.Sc. ‘14, the second class speaker, told graduates they’re entering a difficult field with severe challenges, from a broken agricultural system to global climate change. There have been times, she admitted, when she thought about shifting to an easier career. It happened a few weeks ago, she said, until she attended one of the films at the F&ES-sponsored Environmental Film Festival at Yale.
“I'm sitting there, daydreaming about a mainstream career with a stable path to retirement when nine words flashed on the screen: ‘Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul,’” she said. “It's no Aldo Leopold, but this Edward Abbey quote embodies what makes me so proud to be a member of this community.”
She told the crowd that one of the first people at F&ES to inspire her — and to knock her out of her own “myopic” frame of mind — was Jonah Adels. Whether it was his work to improve global food systems or simply his habit of asking a friend to describe something meaningful during time of stress, she said, he knew he was changing the world every day.
“Jonah knew how to live for what he believed in,” she said. “He knew how to act on his sentiment. We have a responsibility that is truer today than it has ever been before. We have a bravery of imagination to see the world not as it is now but as it can be. And we have the passion and dedication to commit to ourselves to that vision. And today we have the privilege of being from this school.”
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.