Fletcher Class Day: back in person

Anand Mahindra delivers keynote remarks to Classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022
Anand Gopal Mahindra standing at a podium in front of an orange and white Fletcher flag

On Saturday, May 21, The Fletcher School held its 19th annual Class Day Ceremony on Fletcher Field. Students and their families, faculty, staff, and alumni gathered to hear Dean Rachel Kyte, Alumni speaker Joseph Gagliano, PhD, USN (F08, F12), and Class Day speaker Mr. Anand Mahindra, Chairman of The Mahindra Group and Non-Executive Chairman of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., deliver keynote remarks.

Dean Rachel Kyte welcomed the Class of 2022 to the alumni community as well as the members of the Classes of 2020 and 2021, who were unable to attend their own Class Day and Commencement ceremonies in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also recognized were the alumni in the audience attending Reunion Weekend. Members of the Classes of 1972-2017, as well as members from the classes who could not celebrate reunion on campus the last two years, were welcomed back to campus.

Dean Kyte told the audience, "Pull together. Expand the table... invite all perspectives... anticipate fear and setbacks; when it seems too big, take smaller steps and feel the progress...We are excited to see where your courage will take you”.

Alumni Address

Next to address the audience was Captain Joseph Gagliano. Gagliano served as head of strategic plans for China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran and as director for defense policy and strategy for the national security council at The White House.

On the occasion of his 10th anniversary of his doctoral hooding and graduation from Fletcher, Captain Gagliano said, “Fletcher changed me from the core. It changed how I think about problems, how I study problems, and how I collaborate with others to tackle the most complex challenges in the world”. He told the students, “Together, we are all the Fletcher experience.”


Fine Family Faculty Fellowship

Dean Kyte then announced a gift from the Fine family. David Fine, a 1972 graduate of Tufts, celebrating his 50th reunion this year, his wife Susan, and their son Jeffrey, a 2012 graduate of Fletcher who is celebrating his 10th reunion, generously created a fund to support the research needs of junior faculty at the school.

The Fine Family Faculty Fellowship will be awarded annually to junior faculty in support of their research and/or curriculum development and the recipients of this year’s Fine Family Faculty Fellowship are Professors Melissa McCracken and Tom Dannenbaum.  


Reunion Class Giving Awards

Dean Kyte presented awards to the reunion classes that have distinguished themselves in honor of their reunion milestones.

This year’s reunion attendance award was given to the Class of 2002. The loyalty award, given to the class with the highest number of members who have contributed to Fletcher for two or more consecutive fiscal years, went to the Class of 1997.

The reunion class participation award, presented to the class with the highest percentage of overall donors to the school during the current fiscal year, went to the Class of 1972.

Finally, the reunion class giving award, bestowed upon the Class contributing the greatest amount during the fiscal year, went to the Class of 1982.


Class Gift

Alfred Gjovalin Sogja of the Class of 2022 and fellow committee member Clarisse Marcella Alpaert presented the class gift to Deans Kyte and Blanco. The funds from this gift will support future Fletcher students in areas such as financial aid, internships, student activities, and much more.


Honos Civicus Recognition

On May 3, the Fletcher School inducted 10 Fletcher students into Honos Civicus. These students were competitively selected based on their demonstrated commitment to community service and civic engagement during their time at Fletcher. 

The students inducted are:

Almarie Acosta Cepeda

Katy Constantinides

Sisse Delff

Lark Escobar

Rachel Goretsky

Meg Guliford

Allison Larmann

Rachel Lew

Daron Mackie

Alfredo Ramirez


Presidential Award for Civic Life

Each year, Tufts University recognizes graduate and undergraduate students across the university with the university’s highest honor for outstanding civic leadership and service – the Presidential Award for Civic Life. This year, 19 individuals were recognized for their achievements – including two members of the Class of 2022.

Delia Burns, MALD ’22, was awarded the Presidential Award for her research and advocacy work in raising awareness of sexual and gender-based violence committed against women and girls in Tigray. Lark Escobar, MALD ’22, was also given the Presidential Award for her work volunteering full-time as an Afghan Evacuation Coordinator. Lark works around the clock to free colleagues and employees, raise funding, coordinate with military officers and maneuver bureaucracy to legally get people to safety. Since she began working on evacuations in mid-August, the number of Afghans on her roster has increased tenfold and now includes nearly 800 people. Read more about Delia and Lark’s remarkable work here).


Student Prizes

Every year The Fletcher School recognizes academic achievement by awarding the Edmund A. Gullion prize, awarded in honor of Mr. Gullion, a former dean of The Fletcher School.

The award, given to the student who, at the end of the second year, best exemplifies high academic achievement, combined with participation in the activities of the school and the promotion of its character and community, went to Rachel L. Goretsky, MALD ’22.

The Leo Gross prize was awarded next, honoring Kaleigh S. Homstad, MALD ’22, for excellence in law-related studies.


Peter Ackerman Award

The final award of the day presented was the Peter Ackerman Award for outstanding doctoral dissertation.

Dr. Ackerman, who passed away suddenly last month, was, in the words of Dean Rachel Kyte,  “dedicated to seeing Fletcher be the best it could be and was committed to doing what he could to support the school’s continuing evolution as the world around it changed. ”  Dean Kyte cited the myriad ways Ackerman served the school throughout his life; he “was a friend to students and fellow alumni, as a scholar, as a Board member,  and Chair of the Fletcher Board (of Advisors).  His impact on Fletcher touched every part of our school”.

This year, the faculty chose two recipients, Neha Ansari and Frank Sobchak. Neha’s doctoral dissertation is entitled: God’s Wrath To ‘Miracle Birds’: The Evolution of The American Drone Program and Public Opinion in Fata?

Frank Sobchak’s doctoral dissertation is entitled: Lost in Translation? Assessing The Importance of Language Skills and Cultural Awareness in Special Forces Advisory Efforts.


Dean’s Medal

Initiated by Dean Ted Eliot in 1983, the Dean’s Medal is awarded in recognition of significant achievement in global leadership.

Past recipients include of this award include Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Xanana Gusmao, President And Prime Minister of Timor-Leste; Amina J. Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary General; Susan Rice, U.S. National Security Advisor and U.S. Ambassador To The United Nations; Martti Ahtasaari, International Negotiator and Recipient Of The Nobel Peace Prize; John Kerry, United States Secretary of State and Former United States Senator From Massachusetts, and Rajiv Shah, Head of The US Agency for International Development and now President of The Rockefeller Foundation.

Dean Kyte announced the winner of the 2022 award, Mr. Anand Gopal Mahindra. Mr. Mahindra, Chairman of The Mahindra Group and Non-Executive Chairman of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, is one of the world’s most influential industrialists.

Mr. Mahindra has grown The Mahindra Group into a diversified global conglomerate, which now employs more than 250,000 people in over 100 countries. He has created successful business operations in renewable energy, agriculture, automotive, IT, aerospace, real estate, education, and more. He has been a pioneer in the evolving role of business, its responsibilities and its necessary partnership with government. He has led the dialogue and action from the private sector on critical issues like climate change, sustainability, and social responsibility.

Mr. Mahindra served on the Global Board of Advisors of the Council on Foreign Relations, has been named to Barron's List of Top 30 CEOs worldwide, and was noted on Fortune Magazine’s list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.

Harish Mahindra, Anand’s father, was Fletcher’s first Indian graduate in 1946. Prior to the Class Day ceremony, Dean Kyte presented Mr. Mahindra with copies of his father’s admissions application documents. (Read more about Anand Mahindra here)


Mahindra’s Address

Mr. Mahindra spoke of the pleasure of making his first visit to The Fletcher School to retrace the steps of his father - a member of the Class of 1946 and Fletcher’s first Indian student.

Embarrassed that he never made his way to Medford while a student at Harvard University, he admitted that his only interaction with Tufts was his visits to the Dental School for dental work. “Speaking at Fletcher’s Class Day is my finest hour,” he announced.

He spoke fondly of his father’s closest friendship at Fletcher, and expressed hope that the friendships made by this year’s graduating class would help to ‘unite the world’, as his father’s had.

Mr. Mahindra told the audience that his company’s 250,000 employees are driven by the purpose of the company. “Purpose can evolve and transform. Never underestimate the power of purpose in business, or in life. I urge you to take small steps to change the world around you,” Mahindra said.

He advised the students in attendance, “Shape the world as it ought to be, rather than accepting it as it is,” adding, “Harness the power of purpose.”

In his closing remarks, Mr. Mahindra said, “You will have no difficulty finding inspiration in the people around you. People will find ways to make the world the way it ought to be. In a way, you are all pilgrims searching for answers. A pilgrim is a wanderer searching for an answer. May you wander through the world with wonder and purpose.”

Fletcher’s Commencement Ceremony will take place on Sunday, May 22nd at 11:30 am ET. A livestream will be available here.