Hope Hamilton Pettegrew '61, P'87, P'89
Doctor of Humane Letters
An ancient sage once said: Where there’s life, there’s hope. We say: Where there’s Hope, there’s life—abundantly. Hope Pettegrew, you enrich the lives of others in everything you do.
After teaching elementary school for several years, you co-founded Cobblestone, an American history magazine for young people. That magazine is still enlightening and entertaining children some 30 years later.
For the past four decades, your story has been one of service. You have given your time and talents to a host of community organizations, notably the Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter for the homeless, on whose board you serve. A music major at Wheaton, you have continued to pursue your love of the arts, volunteering for the Peterborough Players theater company for more than 30 years.
You don’t just participate: you lead. Time and again you have taken on top governing roles, including board president of the transitional shelter. At Wheaton, you served as president of the Alumnae Association and a member of the Board of Trustees, playing a key role in the college’s transition to co-education and later being named Trustee Emerita. But your engagement didn’t begin—or end—there. You have served your fellow alumnae/i and your college in more key positions than we can name.
Always a devoted mother and now a proud grandmother, you delighted in seeing your daughters, Caroline and Ann, graduate from Wheaton in the 1980s. As one admirer has said, your “love of family, friends and community are a lesson to all, young and old.”
The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has honored you as both Citizen of the Year and a Legend in Business. Today we join them in recognizing your contributions with this Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Hope Pettegrew’s Acceptance Speech
after receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from
Wheaton College during Commencement on May 21, 2011
Thank you President Crutcher, fellow trustees, distinguished guests, graduates and their families, faculty and staff, alums, especially the great class of 1961, and not least – my supportive family members, including our two Wheaton daughters who are here today.
This is an incredible moment for me and I am especially pleased to now be an honorary member of the class of 2011. To be graduating from Wheaton today, after your years of learning, playing and maturing is mind-boggling to you, I’m sure. It certainly is mind-boggling to me to be celebrating my 50th reunion – such an unreal number that came along more quickly than I ever imagined!!
In 1920, my father (then a college student like you), heard the famous Scopes trial lawyer, William Jennings Bryan, lecture. Afterwards when Bryan was asked if anyone is worth a six-figure salary (a lot of money in those days), Bryan responded that a person’s worth is seen, not in his salary or holdings, but in what he or she gives back to his or her community. On hearing that, my father lived his life that way – no matter where his career took him, he always made time to give back to the community in which we lived. During your years here at Wheaton you, too, have learned to share your time by helping others through community projects and I urge you to continue to do that throughout your lives, as it will enrich you beyond measure.
As others will do today, I would like to wish everyone in the class of 2011 great happiness and success, but with the caveat that while I hope that you will experience these, your life may not always include those two words – happiness and success. So, it is better to wish you courage, understanding and love: courage to face whatever comes to you, like the birds who face the wind so as not to ruffle their feathers; courage to develop and nurture your understanding of people and events all around you before passing judgment on them. To hold a grudge or any negative thoughts about others always hurts you more than it hurts the person to whom it is directed. As the well-known Native American saying goes – stand in the moccasins of another for one week before passing judgment.
I also wish for you to enjoy a love of and curiosity for everything life brings your way. Since change is the most constant thing in life, embrace it with wonder. See challenges as opportunities. And in this day of e-mails, texting and iPods, take time to BE with your friends and family. Really listen to what others say – get outside of yourself so that you CAN listen. You cannot feel the warmth and love of others through cyberspace because you need to physically BE PRESENT WITH your friends to make that most important connection. In our world today, we need to have a better sense of how others feel and think. Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about caring and loving your relatives, friends and even those whom you may not like as much. Be truly with them while you can touch and see them, and while they are still with you!
Also, stay in touch with the college by letting the Alumnae/i Office know where you are, what you are doing and by supporting Wheaton to the extent that you are able through your talent and treasure. Remember to give back wherever you live – in that you will find true happiness and success. As Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we earn, we make a life by what we give.”
And finally, to quote of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived; this is to have succeeded.”
Thank you again for this very special honor.
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(proceed to Josie McFadden)