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Joyce Carol Oates to graduates: we do love our students

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. --National Book Award winner and best-selling author Joyce Carol Oates told Mount Holyoke College's graduating seniors on Sunday that despite the red ink and pop quizzes, their professors really do like them.

"It's one of those secrets that's embarrassing to acknowledge, but we do love our students," she said.

Oates, who is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, also told the 590 students that the ones who stood out academically were not always the ones destined for greatness.

"Very few writers of distinction in fact were outstanding as undergraduates," she said, noting William Faulkner received a D in freshman English; Cormac McCarthy was asked to leave the University of Tennessee because of his poor grades; and Stephen King had dozens of short stories rejected before his first publication.

Persistence was the key, she said.

"There is the expectation that a younger generation has the opportunity to redeem the crimes and failings of their elders and would have the strength and idealism to do so," she said.

Graduates at Amherst College were also urged to put their talents to use by Samantha Power, professor in practice of public policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

"At a time when politics deals in distortions and half truths, truth is to be found in the liberal arts," she told the 430 graduating seniors at Class Day Ceremonies Saturday.

"There's something afoot in this country and you are very much a part of it."

The students chose Power to speak and to receive an honorary degree Sunday during the commencement ceremony.

At the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, president and chief executive of The New York Times Co., Janet L. Robinson, addressed 1,387 undergraduate and graduate students from 15 countries and 19 American states.

Robinson, a native of Somerset, spent 11 years as a teacher in Rhode Island. When she reached her 30s, she moved to New York to pursue a career in media.

"Do not be afraid to change your mind," she said. "I have never regretted my choice. Neither will you."

At UMass Amherst, about 4,000 students received bachelors degrees during Sunday's 136th undergraduate commencement.

Chancellor John V. Lombardi presided at the ceremony and an honorary degree was awarded to blues musician and alumnus Taj Mahal.

Framingham State College awarded 455 master's degrees and 692 bachelor's degrees Sunday.

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